As we enter 2022 with renewed energy to achieve our audacious goal of transforming 20 million lives by 2030, we want to thank you for the support you showed us throughout 2021. For a detailed look at our achievements in 2021, see our 2021 Annual Report. We would also like to extend our gratitude to our partners, funders, and dedicated staff for your continued commitment to ending extreme poverty through entrepreneurship and innovation. We are excited to share Village Enterprise’s top ten accomplishments from 2021:
Achieving our Greatest Impact To Date
We lifted more Africans out of extreme poverty than at any other time in our history, starting 57% more businesses than the previous year. Despite pandemic-related lockdowns throughout Africa, our team equipped over 18,000 first-time entrepreneurs with the resources to start 6,002 sustainable businesses, transforming the lives of over 120,000 individuals. To achieve this new level of scale, we expanded to Rwanda and Mozambique.
Over the past year, Village Enterprise partnered with Catholic Relief Services and USAID to pilot the Nawiri project, an adapted poverty graduation program to combat malnutrition in Isiolo County and assess its effectiveness. Over the past year, we started 204 businesses and 20 business savings groups with $19,258.20 in savings, allowing 810 children to receive better nutrition and increased access to health care.
Joining Forces with Government
Building upon the successful development of a Graduation policy, we launched the Kenya Social and Economic Inclusion Project (KSEIP) alongside the Boma Project and the Global Development Incubator, which was integrated into existing poverty alleviation programs in West Pokot in partnership with Wasafiri and the county government of West Pokot. This project is intended to build the government of Kenya’s capacity to implement economic inclusion activities and integrate the graduation model with existing social protection programs.
Addressing Illegal Wildlife Trade
For the last four years, we have been addressing issues on illegal wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflict by implementing the Park Actions project in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and working alongside the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Uganda Conservation Foundation, and other local nonprofits, Village Enterprise established 180 wildlife friendly businesses as a means to generate alternative sources of income. As a result, 89% of the Village Enterprise participants and 60% of the general population now have improved attitudes towards conservation work. These results were published by IIED as a case study, research report, and blog.
Reimagining “Aid” for Refugees
We secured $20 million over five years in funding for Delivering Resilient Enterprises and Market Systems for Refugees (DREAMS), a program created in partnership with Mercy Corps and IDinsight. Together we will transform the lives of 150,000 of the most vulnerable refugees of Uganda and Ethiopia by integrating two economic development models – poverty graduation and market systems development – to ensure the poorest refugee households can generate income, build assets, start to save, and improve their well-being.
Innovating Results-Based Financing
For the past four years, we have been implementing the first Development Impact Bond for poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa with $5.32M in funding directed towards increasing consumption and assets of 14,100+ first-time entrepreneurs living in extreme poverty. An independent randomized controlled trial (RCT) conducted by IDinsight this year measured the outcomes of the program changes. Investors will be paid back by the outcome funders based on the results of the RCT that will be published in March 2022.
Tackling the Technology Divide Through Innovative Digital Solutions
In 2020, we received funding from the Covid-19 Adaptation Fund, managed by Instiglio and Global Development Incubator, to test and integrate technological adaptations to our program. Over the past year, our technology team designed a hybrid learning and training platform by producing training videos, distributing portable projectors and smartphones, and creating a toll-free number for entrepreneurs to ask questions of their mentors in real-time. As a result, our staff conducted 50% more trainings with 85% of participants noting satisfaction with the new technology. This year, we hired Scott Isbrandt, our new Vice President of Digital Solutions, to spearhead relevant technology partnerships and tools that further increase efficiency and impact.
Building a World-Class African Team
We hired diverse, dedicated, and passionate leaders to drive our locally adapted program. We hired Sylvere Mwizerwa, our first-ever Country Manager in Rwanda, promoted John Ilima to become our Country Director of Uganda, and promoted Leah Bwari Okero to Director of Partnerships. To provide an atmosphere of professional growth and trust, we launched “Lead@VE”, a professional development training program in an interactive setting.
Investing in Women’s Agency
We prioritized women’s empowerment, developing strategies to tackle gender inequity. This year, women represented 83% of our program participants. Focusing on the theme of gender equity through financial inclusion, we hosted our second annual Voices of Tumaini virtual event. The event featured a panel comprised of representatives from Days for Girls International, Lwala Community Alliance, and The Starbucks Foundation who spoke about partnerships with Village Enterprise that address the intersection of women’s empowerment, financial inclusion, nutrition, and menstrual health management.
Evolving Our Brand
As we aim to transform the poverty alleviation sector, we knew that our branding should also represent that same dedication to innovation and locally-driven transformation. After months of staff and community input, research, and design, we launched a new logo, brand, and website in April 2021. The updated Village Enterprise website represents months of hard work by our entire team as well as assistance from our creative partner, Advocate Creative.