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EDUFINANCE - Schooling with a Microfinance Difference33 days ago
Honduras Update36 days ago
My Oral Village & Ultra Poverty57 days ago
Opportunity International Canada 2017 Annual Report84 days ago
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Community Development Projects - Lessons Learned
Category: Microcredit | By SDR, 24-Dec-2017 | Viewed 536  Comments 0 | Source Nick Frankle

What's Worked and What's Not Worked

Over the past few years, the Rotary Club of Ojai (California District 5240 USA) has successfully completed economic and community development global grants in two very different areas of the world. Each of these grants was different and yet faced similar challenges. This document attempts to highlight what worked well and what we have learned that should be considered by clubs that are planning similar projects in the future.

Bosnia Women's Project
In 2014, an economic development global grant was written for $77,190 in Ghana to provide girls and single mothers, aged 15-25 years old, basic entrepreneurial skills for girls to start simple businesses and to develop a laundry business as a social enterprise. The proceeds from the laundry will provide funding for the other social programs of the cooperating organization. Funds from the grant purchased the washers, dryers and pressing equipment as well as basic supplies. The business training for the SAid staff consisted of six Skype training calls that last approximately 2 hours each. All of the six sessions had prepared coursework and homework assignments. The coursework was written around specific organizational, operations and financial subjects dealing in a typical commercial laundry.

Bosnia Women's Project
This $71,000 global grant to assist UOS, a non-profit association of 160 women in Stolac, Bosnia, provided for growing, processing and packaging of sun-dried tomatoes. The funds were used to purchase the tomato seeds, turning them into seedlings in nurseries, hiring a university agronomist to teach the growers about best techniques, constructing drying racks, and purchase olive oil, a delivery van, jars and cartons. The beneficiaries were specifically chosen from the Serb, Croat and Muslin communities in Stolac in an attempt to breakdown mistrust and animosity left over from the civil war of the 1990's. Several Skype calls were held with the leaders of the non-profit during the spring and summer to review basic business skills. During a trip to Bosnia in October, formal classroom training in marketing and sales was conducted for the UOS staff.

Experience with these global grants has helped to identify best practices that should be incorporated in future community and economic development projects. 

What Worked Well

A member of the international partner club met the cooperating organization and visited
the location prior to preparing the grant. This visit provided invaluable insights into the
project needs and challenges.

Cooperating organizations assessed the needs and took ownership of their
responsibilities within the project plan.

Host partners managed the bank accounts and provided financial reports.

Potential beneficiaries had input in the development of the project goals and activities.

A cash flow budget was developed to forecast the money needs throughout the project.

Cooperating organizations reported progress and asked for assistance as needed.

Staff business skills training course curriculum was tailored specifically for each project.

Ghana SAid global grant was selected by TRF for interim audit and the assigned auditor
provided valuable suggestions that improved project results and sustainability.

Lessons Learned

Do not expect government, society and economy to function as in a developed country.

Ensure that the beneficiaries have input to the project definition. Ultimately, they are the
ones who must take ownership of the project/business.

Recognize the institution voids (access to capital, lack of skilled labor, and supply chain
blockages) and market impediments for buyers and sellers in the local economy.

Assist the cooperating organization and the beneficiaries to prepare a business strategy
plan at beginning at the beginning of the project and monitor its peformance.

Separate the social enterprise project from other related social services program as much
as possible.

Select or hire staff with prerequisite sales and supervision skills if not present.

Research the market needs, target niche opportunities and establish brand identity.

Product sales require constant outreach for new customers and assessment of existing
customer satisfaction. Investment in future sales is sometimes sacrificed to daily needs.

Establish formal internal controls and financial management policy and procedures early.

Be prepared to make friends for life and partners in project sustainability.

For more information contact Mike Weaver, Rotary Club of Ojai, amweaver@weavergroup.org

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