April 11, 2014

Local Leadership Infographic

Local Leadership Infographic

April 10, 2014

Village Enterprise Hires New Development Director – Q&A with Lucy Valentine Wurtz

Lucy Headshot

Lucy was born in Washington D.C. and grew up primarily in California. After graduating from Santa Clara University, Lucy worked for Senator Alan Cranston before spending two years living in the village of Sinon (outside Arusha), Tanzania, with her husband Brad.

While in Tanzania, Lucy served as projects manager for the Arusha Diocesan Development Office. The Diocese encompasses over 23,000 square kilometers and includes the Serengeti, Olduvai Gorge, and Ngorogoro crater.

Upon her return to the United States, Lucy completed the Coro Foundation’s leadership training program in public affairs and held various development and policy positions in both the public and non-profit sectors.

Prior to joining Village Enterprise, Lucy most recently worked at Waldorf School of the Peninsula as the Development and Outreach Director.

Q&A

Why did you choose to accept the position?

I was looking to find a way back to Africa in my career, and this organization was perfect for me! Village Enterprise has quite a long and stellar track record of success. I am thrilled to harness my vision, skills, and experience to this small-but-mighty non-profit, and I feel humbled by the talent and dedication of my colleagues.

On a professional level, I love development work and helping individuals put their resources to work for a great cause. I am also excited about increasing the visibility of the work Village Enterprise does.

Tell me more about your time in Africa, and how it influenced your life.

I first visited East Africa with my family when I was 11. I fell in love with the continent and was determined to live there as an adult.

The work I did in Africa was very similar to the model followed by Village Enterprise. Each village I worked in picked and executed a project that would best improve their lives, and varied from small business development and women’s health, to forestry and animal husbandry.

I loved living in a village as part of an extended family. I greatly admire African culture and its emphasis on relationships, collective responsibility, having a sense of humor and perspective, respect, and the wisdom of elders. I am always striving to bring those values into everything I do, from my work and community service to parenting.  The great happiness and joy I experienced as part of daily living in my village always reminds me to live in the present moment and appreciate what I have.

Why is tackling extreme poverty through business a cause you care about?

I have personally experienced the immense impact a small business or livelihood can have on a family. When African entrepreneurs have access to small amounts of capital, tools, and training, their ingenuity holds no bounds! It really takes so little to serve as a catalyst to help a family lift themselves out of grinding poverty.

Families who have an income to supplement subsistence farming are able to feed their children, provide them with medical care, and send them to school. It completely changes their lives.

Why Village Enterprise?

I love the human-centric aspect of all of Village Enterprise’s work. Village Enterprise has a model that scales quickly, but also innovates where necessary to meet the specific needs of a community and for operational efficiency.

I also like that Village Enterprise is unique in the emphasis it places on hiring, mentoring, training and promoting local, in-country staff. Our Country Directors are Kenyan and Ugandan and 98% of the field staff is East African. I have not seen this replicated in other development organizations. This commitment to cultivating local talent leadership ensures that the impact of our work will magnify over time.

The results speak for themselves. Each business increases a program participant’s income by 75% and impacts on average the lives of 20 people in the community.

What are some of the things you hope to accomplish at Village Enterprise?

I hope to successfully complete our multi-million dollar “Campaign to Scale  Impact and Transform Lives” to help grow the organization and the number of people we serve. In the process I hope to help identify sources of future funding to help solidify lasting organizational sustainability.

I am very excited to also work on a new initiative called “Akina Mama.”  In Swahili, “Akina Mama” roughly translates as a sisterhood of individual women that transcends kinship and who work together to provide for the needs of the whole. Connecting local Bay Area women entrepreneurs to their counterparts in East Africa dovetails perfectly with Village Enterprise’s mission of “ending poverty through sustainable businesses.”

Nzuri sana!

April 2, 2014

Rethinking Innovation Communities: Walking Among Entrepreneurs

Few life experiences have been as formative – or more accurately, transformative – than the time I’ve spent with entrepreneurs in rural settings: unsung heroes building and running small startup businesses that sustain their families and futures, day by hard-working day.

Sure, bright and shiny startups grown in tech hubs like my home base – Silicon Valley – garner media attention and draw the eyes of the world. We celebrate how the latest innovation might change the world, or at least our industry. Yet looking at the impact of innovation in Silicon Valley reminds me that entrepreneurs in many other parts of the globe are creating impact as important to their ecosystems as our rising stars are to ours. Who are these people? They’re micro-entrepreneurs whose work increases their financial stability and strengthens economic foundations for their families – and communities – through the support of by organizations such as Village Enterprise.

A few years back, with the assistance of Village Enterprise, I visited East Africa to learn more about micro-entrepreneurship. Village Enterprise’s deep roots and in-country support enabled excellent access to rural businesses in the villages near Eregi and Kakamega in Kenya’s verdant Western Province.

Village Enteprise’s strong network allowed my son and I to experience close, collaborative conversations with a community of the organization’s clients. These meetings taught me unique lessons about entrepreneurial vision, commitment, and impact – lessons that I refer to here in our own innovation community.

I wrote about this day and was honored that Xconomy liked the story enough to publish it. What I share there, though, is but one aspect of my experience. Here, I have two other things to share.

First, my time with Village Enteprise entrepreneurs – and certainly with our host family, the regional directors and our guide through “The Village Walk,” – helped me understand innovation as a core human value, a drive all of us share. Although what we create in the Valley may be more visible and lucrative than, say, the work of a small farmer striving to send her children to school, the impact may be every bit as life-changing as many of our “next big things.” When innovation catalyzes opportunity, an elevated vision, and financial gain, it builds strength and inspires more innovation, whether on workspace in a faraway land or right here in our own garages.

Second, my time with Village Enterprise’s business owners – founders in every sense of the word – shifted my perspective on what “innovation” actually means. As I sat with business owners in homes and small shops around Eregi, I recognized in them the same resourcefulness, creativity, intelligence, and desire to change the world – or at least their world – that inspires us here in the Valley. Meeting business thinkers in communities quite different from ours helped me see new approaches to problem-solving, understand roadblocks to growth, and watch MVP concepts take shape in real time. Seeing a child turn the lid of an oil drum into a clever rolling toy reminded me to see opportunity in unexpected places. Meeting a family who made cooking pots insulated with palm leaves and reclaimed materials (put your rice and boiling water into the chamber in the morning. Quickly shut and seal. Come home that evening to warm rice, perfectly cooked without the use of additional energy) showed me that there is almost always a better way to solve a problem than the obvious way.

Watching a community seamlessly move to mobile-powered transactions (market prices morphed from currency to phone credits when the banks closed down) reminded me that value can be exchanged in many forms and ultimately depends on the agreement between buyer and seller.

I could go on about this, and someday maybe I will. But for now, I encourage you to read The Village Walk and to consider the lessons it shares for other innovators in other areas. Sense the affinity between the way people in Eregi seek a higher path and apply their talent toward solving problems, driven by vision and hope and a desire to change the world, just as we do here.

Think about the privilege that fuels the innovations we create here: the problems we get to think about because our essential needs are reliably met. Go find your own village walk and learn, as I did, that the drive to better our own lot and empower next generations to do the same is one we all share, despite huge differences in our life realities. Know that you can help a founder on a distant road in a green valley find the same satisfaction in innovating to create business value as we do in our Valley here – and that THAT truly is a way to change the world.

For Ellen’s full article in Xconomy

Ellen Leanse

Ellen Leanse

She has worked in Silicon Valley for more than 30 years, spanning Apple, Google, Facebook app development, entrepreneurship, user experience, and strategic communication. A digital pioneer, she built Apple’s first online presence in 1985 and has continued her work in innovation, community-building, and leadership since that time. Her work with entrepreneurs in the US, Europe, Africa, and Latin America informs her views on tech’s role in driving global change.

Named one of technology’s top five marketers and a Silicon Valley Woman of Influence, Ellen is currently advising a range of early-stage companies. Follow her on Twitter at @chep2m

March 13, 2014

The African Evaluation Association Conference: From Analysis to Practice

P1040842Have you ever been in a room with 600 practitioners who are all experts in your career field and thought, “how do I absorb this much knowledge in such a short time?” That is how I felt in the opening plenary session of the African Evaluation Association conference in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The conference brought together over 600 evaluators, monitoring specialists, consultants, and academics from all facets of the development community. Attendees included the Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The MasterCard foundation, various offices from the United Nations including UNEP, UNICEF, UN Habitat, UNHCR, UNDP, and of course many INGOs working with new M&E tools or looking to learn new best practices and techniques applicable on a smaller scale. Evaluation specialists from various bilateral and multilateral funders including representatives from the governments of many African countries, many European countries, USAID, The World Bank, and the African Development Bank were there, too. It was an incredible mix of minds with which to spend a week learning, practicing, presenting, and networking.

The first two days of the conference were structured around workshops—this was an opportunity to build practical skills from prominent development practitioners. On Monday I attended a workshop on Developmental Evaluation, hosted by Michael Quinn Patton (a development evaluation guru) and Kate McKegg. The focus was on holistic evaluation, moving away from traditional indicators, and looking at community based, people-centered evaluation. The workshop focused a lot on understanding complexity in the evaluation context, and how to adjust an evaluation to take into consideration the different elements rendering it so difficult. The takeaways were that communities can develop their own visions of success and change, and that developmental evaluation can effectively incorporate those local indicators into the evaluation process.

The second day I participated in a very technical workshop hosted by the USAID East Africa Bureau, and African Strategies for Health. The workshop was entitled “USAID Evaluation Standards in Practice.” Given Village Enterprises nascent relationship with USAID via fhi360, I took the opportunity to learn about evaluation standards at USAID. It was insightful and very detailed, aimed at setting evaluation practitioners on a path to be able to maximize their skills to meet USAID needs. It was also very relevant to monitoring and evaluation (M&E) for our Community Connector work in Uganda.

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The last three days were all presentations, panels, and roundtables on various topics. I presented on behalf of Village Enterprise my white paper entitled, “Participatory Wealth Rankings as A Tool for Targeting and Evaluation: Can We Find the Poor and Measure Change in their Lives Using Participatory Methods?” I presented to a break out session in a small room packed with almost 70 people. The second half of the conference was moved from the Hilton to the Parliamentary Complex in Yaounde. There was no air conditioning and it was about 90 degrees and humid. I was nervous, wanting to represent Village Enterprise to the best of my ability, and knowing I could face tough questions from a room full of technical specialists and practitioners. The presentation went extremely well, and the questions from the audience were insightful. Village Enterprise was praised for using participatory methods and mixing them with the field-tested Progress Out of Poverty Index survey to verify the results. Village Enterprise was also praised for collecting data using Android phones, and for being a relatively small organization that is willing to innovate and try new approaches. Overall the presentation was very well-received, and it generated additional interest in the work of Village Enterprise.

Thursday and Friday I attended presentations on a wide range of topics from how to generate better indicators for evaluation, to how to make evaluation more locally relevant. There was a heavy focus on African-centered evaluation, and what it means to be an evaluator in Africa. This conversation tended towards looking at ways to move evaluation from a model that centers creation in the West and implementation in Africa, to one where creation, design and implementation are taking place locally on the African continent. The plenary session on the Thursday spoke to the need for developing capacity for M&E in Africa, and how bilateral and multilateral donors, governments, and INGOs need to work together to strengthen local capacity for evaluation.

Overall the conference was enlightening, exciting, and left me with more questions and a renewed drive to improve and innovate with M&E at Village Enterprise. I was fortunate to spend time with some brilliant practitioners, make new friends and colleagues, and develop some great contacts. I even ran into a friend who was in my Master’s program, and we were able to talk shop. The conference was a wonderful experience, and I am already excited about the next one in 2016. But until that time, I have some indicators to go and monitor…

 

AJ

AJ Doty
Fellow

March 6, 2014

The Ripple Effect: A Peninsula Entrepreneur’s New Passion for Africa

An interview with Gina Barron, Founder of Rituals Aesthetic Skin Care

You recently returned from your first trip to Kenya. Tell me about why East Africa and its people made an impression on you?

For me, I felt I was in the midst of where it all began. I was so stunned by the beauty of God’s creation. The people were the most beautiful I had ever seen—smiles lit their faces. Many East Africans have very little, yet they seem so happy. They live with simplicity and it seems like they don’t need more. [Being in Africa] is such a feeling and it resonated so deep within me that there are no words. I wasn’t prepared for that. I left Africa knowing I wanted to do something.

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Tell me why you are passionate about the Village Enterprise’s Akina Mama Initiative?

I feel that here in the US there are so many organizations that help empower women but there is much less organized support in Africa, especially in rural areas. I was surprised to see a woman carrying a huge load of firewood on her back and wondered where she had came from. Women walked as far as four hours to sell their wares at a market we attended. On a visit to a Maasai village we learned the women are the ones who build the homes and carry the firewood and water. Seeing these women inspired me.

What I have here as a business owner makes me feel so fortunate. If I can provide resources for one woman to start her own business and bring her out of poverty, it can bring so much hope and inspiration to other women.

As the founder of Ritual Aesthetic Skin Care, how does your own experience impact your interest in supporting women in business in Africa?

I married young and decided to have my family instead of a career, but always worried that if something happened to my husband, I wanted to know that I could support my family if needed. Skincare was my passion and going back to school and starting my own business was so empowering for me. I want to empower other women to support their families too. As women we are a force to be reckoned with. If one woman starts a business, it creates a domino effect and gives other women hope. Owning a business doesn’t have to seem so out of reach.

What prompted you to support Village Enterprise?

Seeing Africa for myself gave me the connection to their work. I knew immediately I wanted to be a supporter after hearing about how Village Enterprise empowers women. They don’t just give money and wish them luck. They take responsibility to make sure businesses are run well, educate these women, and give them tools to succeed. Village Enterprise is responsible to their donors, and at the same time making those who receive the grants more responsible as well.

Rituals Aesthetic Skin Care is donating 15% of sales of its best selling anti-aging serum TGF-B Booster to Village Enterprise. Stop by Rituals Aesthetic Skin Care located at 249 Park Road in Burlingame.

 

Gina Head Shot Color

Gina Barron
Founder, Rituals Aesthetic Skin Care

February 28, 2014

Winnie Auma’s Rising Star

Winnie at Sunflower pilot-001In the past four years, Village Enterprise has grown from eight to over 90 employees in East Africa. Almost all of these are East Africans who come from the rural villages in which we work.  One of our rising stars is Winnie Auma, who recently was promoted to Country Director of Uganda.

Last week I returned from Uganda and Kenya where I spent three weeks working with Winnie. During my visit, I couldn’t help but reflect on her amazing journey with Village Enterprise. When I made my first visit to the field over three years ago, Winnie was a “volunteer” business mentor. I still remember how impressed I was with this passionate young woman with a dazzling smile and charismatic personality.  When I watched her speak to our small business owners, I immediately understood the transformative power of our business mentors.

Like all of our mentors, Winnie grew up in the community where she first mentored Village Enterprise entrepreneurs.  Her knowledge of the local ways and her commitment to give back made her extremely effective. But Winnie is not just effective; she is exceptional.

Village Enterprise is committed to empowering our local staff and promoting from within the organization (see Stanford Social Innovation Review article). To increase the impact of our program we have significantly invested in increased training and mentoring, innovation, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and, most importantly, in our greatest asset….our people. During the last three years of rapid growth, Winnie has been promoted four times and assumed increasingly greater responsibility in her roles as business mentor, field coordinator, assistant country director, and in her current position as country director.

Although she is a natural-born leader, Winnie’s success was against all odds. The last born of 15 children, she was sent to live in a mission when she was just 7 years old.  The Catholic priest, Father Eneku who ran the mission saw great promise in the precocious young Winnie. However, it was not clear at the time if she would ever have the opportunity to live up to that promise.

When Winnie was 10 years old, her older brother took custody of her. He cared for her like a father and made sure that she was able to attend school. But in another tragic turn of events, Winnie’s brother passed way when she was still a teenager. Her brother’s close friend (“Auntie”) promised that she would take care of Winnie. She also saw greatness in Winnie and told her that she was special.

Upon completion of secondary school, Winnie was awarded a full scholarship from the prestigious Female Scholarship Initiative of the Carnegie Foundation to attend Makerere University in Kampala. In 2008, she received her BA in Education. Before coming to work at Village Enterprise as a business mentor, she worked at Alliance High School as a teacher and then at Erimu College as an administrator.

Winnie reflected on her work with Village Enterprise when I spoke with her at the end of my visit: “We are trying to write a new chapter in the lives of those we serve. We are fighting the stigma that is caused by poverty. The change we make is a change you can see and feel….there is nothing more exciting than helping make that change happen.”

 

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Dianne Calvi
Chief Executive Officer

February 20, 2014

Five Acres or Less Workshop: A Recap

Poster4_small_website-682x1024On February 10th and 11th, 2014, Village Enterprise hosted a workshop in Kampala entitled Five Acres or Less: Agricultural Planning for Small-Scale Farmers in East Africa. This event, which brought together agricultural production specialists, domestic and international NGOs, academics, and private-sector agricultural businesses, was a milestone for Village Enterprise. While by no means unknown in the development world, Five Acres or Less was the first high-profile event we’ve hosted in the field and it served as our formal debut to the wider development community in East Africa.

For two exciting days we hosted over 60 agricultural professionals from organizations such as USAID, Makerere University, IPA, Simlow Seed Company, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute at the Fairway Hotel as they discussed and debated the nuances of the various factors limiting the productivity of rural farmers. The goal of the workshop was to debut the S.M.A.R.T. to a diverse group of agricultural experts; improve the data foundations upon which its recommendations are built; and to provide an open forum for discussion about the relative merits of ‘best-practice’ vs. traditional agricultural techniques in the pursuit of better crop yields for the rural poor.

The format of the workshop itself was as stimulating as the topics that were on the agenda. Village Enterprise staff have attended many conferences and workshops in East Africa, and they largely follow the same configuration—presentation after presentation after presentation. For the structure of Five Acres or Less we decided we wanted to take a more innovative approach—one that blended the formal presentation of burgeoning research and theory on the current status of micro-farming with focused, intensive work groups, each examining a specific sub-group of crops, which were tasked with finding consensus on the appropriate combination of agricultural inputs, land management techniques, and risk mitigation strategies to ideally suit the Kenyan and Uganda micro-climates. Each group debated these topics through the lens of the S.M.A.R.T., which was updated in real-time as they made headway on their respective crops. Finally, to cap off the workshop, each group presented the impact of their research on the S.M.A.R.T. outputs for their crop group to the wider workshop, demonstrating the tangible value of accurate information at the decision-making stage for rural farmers.

Perhaps the most unique quality of the Five Acres or Less workshop, however, was the central focus of the rural farmer. Many conferences and workshops have been held on agricultural development in international cities such as Washington, London, Paris and countless others, but very few have actually seen those rural farmers directly represented—let alone spotlighted—for their practical expertise and knowledge of the problems being tackled.

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Village Enterprise was deliberate in putting those people at the center of the conversation. We were honored to have in attendance seven farmers from the Village Enterprise program, screened and selected for their expertise, to ensure we had at least one “Good Farmer” with practical experience at each crop table. It was supremely rewarding to watch Village Enterprise-affiliated farmers—most of whom actually graduated from our program—not just go to toe-to-toe with PhDs and Deans from prestigious research organizations and schools of agriculture about the right balance of fertilizers, but to win the argument!

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Two days is a long time to sustain the interest of such a diverse assemblage of experts, let alone keep it productive. However, having sat through the light-hearted, and at time hilarious, atmosphere of the final presentations and sifted through the comment cards days later I was convinced we had overcome that challenge. “It is innovative and rare to see the Dean of the University of Nairobi School of Agriculture and a Village Enterprise farmer at the same table…discussing how to improve agricultural practices,” commented one attendee. “The skills I gained will make my home people benefit from my experience, Thank you!” and “I can’t believe we have not done this before! Thank you Village Enterprise for your work and effort in developing the S.M.A.R.T.!” gushed others.

The effusive praise and the positive impact this workshop will have on the lives of rural farmers in our program completely validate the painstaking hours of preparation and numerous fires that had to be extinguished along the way. It was also inspiring to watch the Village Enterprise team come together and work so hard, efficiently, and effectively to make sure the event went off without a hitch. It is hard to conceive of a way in which Five Acres or Less could have been more of a success, which already has us brainstorming ideas for our next workshop. One thing is for certain, though—this achievement would not have been possible without the individual input of every member of the Village Enterprise staff from here to San Carlos and for that I am supremely gratified.

 

Doug Bove

Doug Bove
Fellow

February 6, 2014

The Ripple Effect: Women Empowering Women

Helen

Inspiration often comes from watching someone achieve a dream against all odds. For me, that inspiration is Helen, a Ugandan woman living in extreme poverty who started a business that lifted her family and many in her community out of poverty. When I, the owner of a Bay Area handbag business, realized that the sale of just one bag could start a business and alleviate hunger for a family in East Africa, I knew I needed to do something.

For Helen, her struggles were daily ones – not sure of when she would eat or if she could ever repair the leaking roof of her home. Through the help of Village Enterprise, Helen received training as a tailor then used a start-up grant to rent a sewing machine and buy fabric to start her business. She eventually could afford to sustain her family with healthy food, clothing, education and medical treatment. However, her story does not end there. She empowered other single and at risk women in her community through teaching sewing in a local vocational school and opening a restaurant to feed hungry students.

Though we are continents apart, Helen’s entrepreneurial spirit and hard work have inspired me to never take any of the privileges I enjoy in the US for granted. Helen’s commitment to help her community gain new skills, alleviate hunger and raise the standard of living serves as a powerful example to me.

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I was humbled to learn that a grant of $150 provides seed capital for one business and raises 20 people out of extreme poverty.

As an environmentally conscious business owner, what I love about Village Enterprise is that the small business solutions they provide to alleviate extreme poverty also protect the environment. Sustainable businesses such as Helen’s are also crucial to reduce the significantly high environmental stress on East Africa. In Uganda alone, it is estimated the deforestation rate is 55,000 hectares (212 square miles) lost a year. Village Enterprise works to develop holistic solutions that integrate community-based training and conservation practices that curb illegal encroachment on forests. Through creating sustainable businesses in targeted areas of need, the poor generate income and become stewards of the environment.

Ecogirl handbags is honored to support Village Enterprise and donate 15% of all online sales through May 2014. As a fellow businesswoman, I am grateful to be able to walk alongside entrepreneurial women in East Africa as they work to alleviate extreme poverty in their communities.

Jenn Jory

Jennifer Jory
Ecogirl Handbags
www.ecogirlonline.com

Ecogirl Logo

Ecogirl Handbags’ mission is to collect and rescue upholstery fabrics and refashion them into high-styled handbags.

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November 20, 2013

Universal Children’s Day

Kids smiling

Universal Children’s Day is holiday that was created to honor our children. Children’s Day was first assembled on November 20, 1959. Children’s Day is celebrated on a wide variety of days but most of the world celebrates this important day today. Not only is it a day to honor children but it’s a day to bring awareness to the plight of children across the globe. The day recognizes how far we have come in improving children’s lives by reducing child labor and enslavement. In the early 1900’s and before, child slavery was common in many countries and still exists today.

Although Village Enterprise’s mission is to equip people living in extreme poverty with resources to create sustainable businesses, we recognize the impact of income on families and children and would like to in turn create a world where hardships against children do not exist. By training and mentoring East Africans how to create a sustainable business, they are able to create a healthy life for themselves and their children without having to make their children work. They will be able to feed their children three meals a day so they can grow up strong. Since diseases such as HIV and Malaria are still widely spread across East Africa, families will now be able to afford the medicines they need for their vulnerable family members, children and elders. With a healthy family generating income from their business, there is no need for child labor. Being able to send their children to school is important for future generations to be successful and not stuck in poverty.

You can support Village Enterprise by sending a donation or learning more about our cause so we can empower families who are living under the extreme poverty line. After they are trained and sustained they can create a healthy life for themselves and their family. I think that is a positive action that we can continue to bring.

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Jennan

Jennan Naja
Intern

November 15, 2013

Village Enterprise Hires New Kenya Country Director – Q&A with Tadeo Muriuki

Kenya Country Director Tadeo Muriuki

Tadeo Muriuki grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. He attended University in the United States where he received his Bachelors and Masters degree.

Tadeo worked in the US for several years before moving back to Kenya. His work experience in Kenya includes working as a Research Manager for AMPATH in Eldoret, Kenya and more recently as a Project Director with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) in Western Kenya. Aside work, Tadeo spends his time with his wife and two young children.

We sat down with Tadeo to find out more about why he joined Village Enterprise.

Q&A

Why did you choose to accept the position?

I accepted this position because it resonated with my long-held desire of working in an environment of helping economically indigent people break their poverty cycles through their own entrepreneurial initiatives.

Why Village Enterprise?

I interviewed with a number of organizations but I got very impressed with Village Enterprise model of conducting rigorous business training thereby equipping people who have very little or no education with business skills that they would never had in their current circumstances.

Village Enterprise is relatively a small sized organization that is poised for major growth in the coming years and I wanted to be one of the drivers for this growth. My contributions and experience here would probably have a bigger impact here in contrast to joining a large organization.

Why is tackling extreme poverty through business a cause you care about?

The culture of handouts that was perpetuated by politicians and other non-governmental organizations used to bother me a lot. I saw people developing a sense of dependency and helplessness that robbed them of their dignity. By empowering very poor people with skills and resources to provide for themselves and their families, we not only help them worry less about their daily bread but we also restore to them a sense of hope, dignity and pride. They are able to walk with their heads high in their communities gaining a sense of respect from their neighbors.

Could you talk about the experiences with the organizations you previously worked for? Did they influence your decision to take this position?

Yes, my experiences with my previous organizations cemented my desire to seek for opportunities in an organization with a sustainable model for the fight against poverty. I have previously worked in an organization where medicine and food was provided free of charge by donors and I remember the ever nagging anxiety from staff of what would happen if the donors were unable to continue with their aid.

What are some of the things you hope to accomplish at Village Enterprise?

  • Increase the number of businesses trainings we offer.
  • Increase our local and regional donor base
  • Capacity building for local staff
  • Increase Village Enterprise visibility and ability to influence policy
  • Seek partnerships with like-minded organizations
  • Set up organizational systems such as HR, payroll, procurement to ready ourselves to work with large donors such as USAID, Bill & Melinda Gates

What are some of the challenges you think you’ll face?

Challenges are always an opportunity for growth. Given that we are expanding to Kitale after working in Kakamega for several years, I expect that it may some time to cultivate new relationships with people in this area who have never heard of Village Enterprise and our work. One of my main goals at Village Enterprise is to increase our visibility. Given that Kenya is home to many INGOs, I expect that it may take some time to achieve this visibility but I am confident that we can achieve this goal. Another challenge that Village Enterprise has faced in the Kakamega region is of maintaining high attendance at our trainings. I hope to work with the team to come up with creative measures to ensure that we do not experience this issue in our Kitale region.

How has your experience been so far?

In one word: “Great”. The team has been very welcoming and providing me with a lot of support as I learn the ropes. I have had the pleasure of having one on one chats with our field coordinators and business mentors who have amazed me with their passion and commitment in their work. They truly believe that they are making a positive impact on the lives of the very poor. I recently attended a disbursement meeting of business owners who were very excited about starting their businesses. I am enjoying the experience and I am still pinching myself that I am working for such a great organization.

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