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Contributing Author

Economic Development & Job Readiness: CLASSY Awards Top 5

From employment opportunities to job training and micro financing, Economic Development programs help individuals provide a better life for their families and raise the bar in self-sustainability. View the key indicators of this subcategory here.


The Streetwise MBA
Interise
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING Economically distressed urban neighborhoods account for 15% of unemployment, nearly 25% of U.S. poverty, and over 30% of minority poverty. When established small businesses in these communities thrive they create more local jobs and contribute to inner city economic health. Yet, less than 20% of small business development resources are designed to meet their needs. Their potential is untapped.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]The Streetwise MBA
Program Name

United States
Location

2004
Start date

Bernard Johnson
Program Director

@StreetWise_MBA[/su_pullquote]

According to Interise, the best poverty reduction strategy is local, sustainable jobs with decent salaries and good benefits. Existing small employers with the potential to address this need and contribute to the economic and social resilience of their low income communities, need appropriate management skills, access to broader markets, supportive peer networks, and friendly, flexible capital to make this happen. The StreetWise MBA program provides small business owners with a hands-on small business executive education curriculum, a professional support network of small business owner peers and mentors, and a community of peers who learn together, inspire one another, and hold each other accountable. The model leads to change at the individual, small business, and community level. Throughout the recession, Interise graduates have created jobs at 10x the average of the private sector as a whole and graduates have reported consistent revenue growth year after year. At a program cost of $2,670 per participant, each new job created “costs” roughly $1,250. In the first 4 years, the program went from 1 city in Massachusetts to 25 cities nationwide. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”Bernard Johnson, Program Director” class=”top5″] During our program, small business owners move from isolation to membership in local/regional networks of CEO peers and trusted advisors/mentors. Our owners build long-lasting relationships built on trust and mutual respect. They hold each other accountable over time to their growth plans. Through Interise, small employers acquire the what, how and who needed to grow. [/su_quote]
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Ending Youth Poverty
Vittana
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING 2.5 million students in the Philippines have graduated from high school but do not continue to higher education. Although 28% of the population is school-aged, government financing options are limited. The average cost of higher education is 1-4 times the annual income of the poorest 30%. As a result most students do not continue school and are not qualified for high-paying jobs.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Ending Youth Poverty
Program Name

Philippines
Location

2008
Start date

Sanjaya Punyasena
Program Director

@vittana[/su_pullquote]

Rooted in the belief that education is the most powerful tool to eradicate poverty, Vittana works with 8 microfinance partners to start, shape, and scale student loan markets, often in areas where student loans previously did not exist. The Vittana partnership model and program strategy is supported by data from MixMarket; once partnerships are established Vittana provides risk tolerant capital to launch a pilot loan program and technical assistance during all stages of the portfolio growth. In 2013, the program reached 4,700 students in the Philippines with a 98% loan repayment rate. 85% of students were still employed 1 year after graduation. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”Sanjaya Punyasena, Program Director” class=”top5″]When I joined Vittana, we had reached only 600 students. Now, we’ve passed the 15,000-student milestone and should reach more than our four-year total in 2014 alone. It has been exhilarating to see these programs take off. We are quickly proving that students can be responsible borrowers and that these loans are a vital tool to help students finish their education. [/su_quote]


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Microfinance and Livelihoods for Women
BRAC
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING Poor women around the world face harsh economic and social realities. This remains true in Bangladesh, where many lack adequate healthcare, education and food for their children. 43% of the population is currently living below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Microfinance and Livelihoods for Women
Program Name

Bangladesh
Location

1974
Start date

Shameran Abed
Program Director

@BRACworld[/su_pullquote]

BRAC provides collateral-free credit and savings services through an innovative social infrastructure called Village Organizations (VOs). VOs contain up to 40 women and act as platforms for women to come together, access financial services, exchange information, and raise awareness on social, legal, and health issues that affect their daily lives. The social infrastructure establishes collective responsibility for loan repayment and has created new relationships, validations, and expectations between the poor and formal organizations in Bangladesh. This “process capital” allows for better leveraging of other development interventions. There are currently 5.8 million VO members in Bangladesh and the repayment rate is 98%, but beyond that, the program has seen tremendous gains in women’s health and other areas. For example, maternal mortality has fallen about 75% since 1980; this is but one indicator of what is likely the fastest increases of quality of life ever seen anywhere, according to The Economist. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”Susan Davis, President & CEO” class=”top5″]You may have heard of the concept of “inclusive growth,” the idea that the increasing economic prosperity should benefit everyone, including the poorest. Recently, some of us were challenged to go beyond that — to treat the poor, in the words of Amartya Sen, as “active agents of change, rather than passive recipients of dispensed benefits.” It requires growth in consciousness, not just economies. [/su_quote]
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Economic Empowerment
Plant With Purpose
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING Only 14% of Tanzanians have access to a formal banking system, forcing many to resort to borrowing from loan sharks who charge oppressively high interest rates. 98% of rural women in the region are dependent on agriculture, with 25% of households headed by women, only 5% of them benefit from agriculture extension. Lack of resources makes it difficult to save.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Economic Empowerment
Program Name

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Location

1984
Start date

Richard Mhina
Program Director

@PlantWPurpose[/su_pullquote]

The Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) model, developed by CARE Intl in 1991, trains groups of individuals to collectively save their money and put it into a group fund. Loans are withdrawn and paid back with interest. Groups of 20-30 members are self managed, drafting bylaws, electing leaders and do not receive external capital. Intensive training equips the groups to become self-sustaining within 2 years with research suggesting 90% of VSLAs thrive within 5 years. 4,406 families are currently involved in this program and have an accumulated member equity of $379,033, earning an average return on savings of 12.4%. According to recent impact evaluation, partnering families are 34% more likely to own assets like cattle, and 24% less likely to have dirt floors, which are local indicators of poverty. The program recently partnered with Participatory Guarantee Systems, allowing for participating farmers to audit one another’s farms, essentially creating the equivalent of a local organic certification system. The partnership has helped increase market availability for farmers, as they are one of two organizations teaching organic farming methods in the country. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”Richard Mhina, Program Director” class=”top5″]Research shows that every $10 added to a woman’s income produces the same improvements in children’s health and nutrition as $110 added to a man’s income. With 70% of our VSLA group members being women, families are being empowered to change their economic standing. Loans are used to develop small businesses, invest in farms, send children to school, provide healthcare, or cover emergency costs. [/su_quote]

The Hope of Change from Plant With Purpose on Vimeo.
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Village Banking
FINCA International
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING Most of the world’s poor depend on self-employment for their income, but due to a lack of capital they are unable to grow their business. Malawi is among the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and formal employment is scarce. In Malawi, the GNI is just $320 and 81% of citizens don’t have access to available financing.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Village Banking
Program Name

Malawi, Africa
Location

1984
Start date

Jana Kadian
Program Director

@FINCA[/su_pullquote]

Village Banking is a form of microfinance pioneered by FINCA. A Village Bank is a group of 5-20 members, usually women, who meet often to provide themselves with small self-employment loans, an incentive to save and support. Loans start from $50 or $100 and are used to start or expand their own businesses. Once FINCA starts a Village Bank, they provide initial training on group dynamics, help them write bylaws and elect officers, and train them on the basics of financial management. After that the members work and strive for success as a group, helping each member reach and exceed goals. The program will inject nearly $10 million in Village Banking loans to Malawi’s struggling economy this year. FINCA loans average just $140 and each one represents some 10% of annual per capita income in Malawi. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”Jana Kadian, Program Director” class=”top5″]I’m always amazed with what a client can do with a small loan. They might buy a sewing machine so that they can make dresses faster than by hand-stitching. They might purchase a refrigerator to keep the produce they sell from going bad overnight. Whatever they do, I always know that the extra income they earn is going to be plowed back into their most important asset, their family, their children. [/su_quote]
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The Hunger & Poverty Experts

The Leadership Council is an honorary board comprised of a diverse group of experts that will collectively determine the winners of the CLASSY Awards in this cause sector. Their unique perspective and valuable insight establishes this recognition as one of the highest honors in the social sector.

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Photo credit: BRAC

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