Were your eyes opened by our piece, “12 Warning Signs: Do Charitable ‘Business Programs’ Lead to Independent Living?” We hope so and we’re following it up with 12 ways to know your favorite charity’s job creation program for survivors is on solid footing – or viable, if you will.
- Does it Actually Work? If authentic, business opportunities created for survivors should provide evidence of financial and non-financial improvements in the lives of program participants. Results from “entrepreneurship” and jobs programs should be inherently clear, data-driven and presented to donors and the public in an open way. Examples may include demonstrated increases in sales, profitability, income, jobs created, debt paid down, etc. and resulting quality of life changes – with specific focus on tangible results for beneficiaries.
- The Power of Business. The power of business should be evident and have a positive effect on the funding process. Examples include natural reductions or elimination of subsidies to same recipients for the same outcomes, new people reached by new donations, and both a return of capital and a return on capital for survivor participants (and potentially sponsoring entities). The power of business provides a natural “matching campaign” for your donations and should be evident through business and opportunity growth, specifically in the lives of beneficiaries.
- Who is the customer? Survivors have been the “customer” while under the care and leadership of ministries and charities providing aid during and after a crisis. Rightfully so. In transition, leaders should be working to guide the mindset of “beneficiaries” from expectations of endless giving to a mindset and expectation to put others first, serving their new customers or employer by delivering an ethical product or service of value in exchange for fair pay.
- Experience Matters. Local trusted members of the business community are at the table with ministry leaders to assist in creating authentic opportunity for beneficiaries. Business leaders share lessons learned, knowledge of current market dynamics, and their connections and influence to help bridge the gap between ministry and charity to the marketplace in the local context.
- Market Driven. Markets are identified before program graduates are trained and businesses are “launched.” Any skills training provided by the charity is known beforehand to have marketable value with direct links to existing opportunities for the trainee and graduate. No program leader is promoting outdated skills useful to participants only as a hobby, or “entrepreneurship” that develops a theoretical product or service to then ask, “How can we sell this?”
- All the Gold. Program leaders do not assume the financial health of the bank (micro lender repayment rates) equates to the health of the borrower (the survivor). The personal well-being of micro loan clients and their families is known to be improving significantly, even to the point of independence from ongoing debt with the micro lender. Improvements are seen broadly beyond anecdotal rags-to-riches stories of a handful of naturally gifted entrepreneurs who have been part of the program’s past.
- Whitewater Rafting Guide.Leaders of charities have direct business experience, or recruit others who do, to provide participants with relevant insights and guidance as beneficiaries seek and pursue job opportunities. Business people providing business advice is akin to having a rafting guide who has actually rafted the same river before. Practical wisdom, knowledge of opportunities, and personal and professional pitfalls (obstacles in the river) of business are shared for the local context.
- All Four Legs to a Relay Race. “Entrepreneurship” and business training programs place priority on, and extend their scope of service to, evaluating the ability of program graduates to convert their plans and ideas “launched” into profitable efforts and meaningful income, crossing the finish line according to the participant which may differ from the end of the program’s scope of service.
- Where are you now? Training and skills meet beneficiaries where they are, without sophisticated business methodologies, trendy jargon or culturally irrelevant topics. The basics of business are presented clearly, and mentorship by local leaders addresses any cultural and socioeconomic challenges specific to the setting.
- Will it Sink or Float? Third parties are not only allowed, but invited, into the program itself and the path of the transitioning participant. As employers, buyers, or suppliers, for example, their independence puts academic theories to the test for authenticity and viability outside the protective bubble of charity.
- Skin in the Game. Often for the first time, participants are now engaged in business activity with third others who have their own skin in the game and something at risk. This provides the natural tension which feeds personal and professional development needed as participants find a way to honor commitments and meet a paying customer or employer’s expectations for a mutually beneficial (profitable) outcome.
- Left is Port, Right is Starboard. The basics of charity and ministry are intact with a strong commitment by leaders to the priorities for their selfless role and avenue of service. The well-being of the participant takes precedence over project ownership, control, professional credit for outcomes and opportunity for advancement. It is clear that leaders involved will leverage any and all ethical collaboration and creativity necessary and available to them to achieve results for the target beneficiary and participant in transition.
Our conviction is to see beneficiaries experience tangible benefit when they place their trust in the hands of charities and ministries who represent they can provide help. We take the role of leader and teacher very seriously when the plight of people living on razor thin margins is at stake. The challenges are complex. We believe it is a duty and obligation to God and man to care for others as we care for ourselves, treating them as we would want to be treated. In the midst of many careless and bad actors in the charity and “development” space, we are thankful for the organizations and leaders doing good work. Our efforts here are to cast a vision for what compassionate AND effective service looks like in the world of “economic empowerment,” to provide any and all charity and ministry leaders (and donors) who will listen with lessons learned. We are experiencing tremendous results and further progress in creating and facilitating authentic job opportunities for people in desperate need of income as they escape not only poverty, but charity too. We want to share our notes with others on a similar journey.
Please let us know if you or someone you know have experienced failure, face what appears to be insurmountable obstacles, or simply want to validate what you’re currently doing or explore ways to make incremental improvements – to help victims turned survivors transition to independent living. We are available and honored to help where we can. We also welcome any and all opportunities to learn from what you are doing and continuously improve our own efforts.