As we reflect on a year’s worth of impact and innovation, we’re taking a look back at all that we accomplished in 2023.
On top of everything listed below, Village Enterprise also received its ninth consecutive four-star rating from Charity Navigator and earned a perfect, 100% score—an honor achieved by less than one-tenth of one percent of all charities. We were also a finalist for Charity Navigator’s first-ever Community Choice Award.
Thank you for making 2023 our most impactful year to date! If you would like to learn more about all that was accomplished, check out our recently published Annual Report.
1. Transformed more lives in one year than ever before—over 252,000.
By equipping women, refugees, and youth to become entrepreneurs, we’re breaking generational cycles of extreme poverty and creating economic opportunities for communities all across rural Africa. It’s hard to overstate the transformative impact this has for the families we serve. As our entrepreneurs now have the means to generate sustainable income and build their savings, they can invest in things that really matter—housing, education, nutrition, healthcare, their family’s future, and pursuing their dreams.
2. Funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for strategic new projects
Near the end of 2023, Village Enterprise received a $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This funding will support our collaborative work with the Makueni, Taita Taveta, and West Pokot county governments in Kenya to lay the foundation for them to independently manage poverty graduation programs. It will also support the implementation of Village Enterprise’s poverty graduation program as part of a DREAMS pilot in Garissa County, which will be our first time implementing DREAMS in Kenya.
3. DREAMS to expand to Tanzania and the Ethiopian Highlands
Late in the year, Village Enterprise and Mercy Corps learned that DREAMS received funding to expand to Tanzania and the highlands of Ethiopia starting early 2024. In Tanzania, DREAMS will serve naturalized refugees. In the highlands of Ethiopia, the program will work with communities living in extreme poverty. In both countries, Village Enterprise will provide technical assistance to local organizations to implement our poverty graduation model.
Pictured above is the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda where DREAMS was first launched. Photo credit: Ezra Millstein for Mercy Corps.
4. Partnered with the Government of Rwanda to scale poverty graduation
In November, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) awarded $6.5 million to Village Enterprise, which was DIV’s largest grant in the past decade and their second largest ever. With this funding, Village Enterprise will work with the Government of Rwanda to adopt, implement, and scale our poverty graduation program across Rwanda. This will support one million Rwandans to move out of extreme poverty by 2027, with the ultimate goal of ending extreme poverty in Rwanda by 2030.
5. Launched DREAMS for Refugees in Ethiopia
In partnership with Mercy Corps and with funding from the IKEA Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Village Enterprise officially launched DREAMS for Refugees in the Dollo Ado region of Ethiopia. The first cohort of 1,200 entrepreneurs from the Kobe, Hilaweyn, and Melkadida refugee settlements launched their businesses in December and are projected to graduate from our program in the spring of 2024. The launch of DREAMS in Ethiopia builds off the program’s success in refugee settlements in Uganda.
Photo credit: Ezra Millstein for Mercy Corps
6. Revolutionized microbusiness development in rural Africa through digital solutions
In partnership with DreamStart Labs, Village Enterprise piloted the DreamSave app within 12 communities across Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda this past year. DreamSave assists business savings groups in securely and accurately storing their savings records on mobile phones instead of in paper books. This pilot has been so effective and exciting for participants—saving them time and encouraging them to increase their savings—that we are planning to implement it in every Village Enterprise business savings group by 2025!
7. MaKenzie Scott’s transformational gift
In March, philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott donated $7 million to Village Enterprise—the largest single unrestricted gift in our organization’s history. Her gift is not only a testament to our mission and vision, but it will be a cornerstone of our efforts to end extreme poverty and build climate resilience for 20 million people by 2030.
8. Won Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Award for building refugee self-reliance
In May, DREAMS for Refugees won Fast Company’s 2023 World Changing Ideas Award for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This innovative approach to poverty alleviation combines Village Enterprise’s poverty graduation program with Mercy Corps’ expertise in market systems development. By combining these two proven approaches, DREAMS supports refugees to build economic self-reliance as they graduate out of extreme poverty and rebuild their lives. Since May, DREAMS has also been featured in Fortune and BBC Business Matters (starting at 27:16).
Photo credit: Jjumba Martin for Mercy Corps
9. Increased proximate leadership on our Board of Directors
Village Enterprise welcomed four dynamic African leaders to our Board of Directors in 2023: Ermias Eshetu, Michael Mithika, Evelyn Namara, and Alexis Rwabizambuga. All four members, along with Serah Kimani who joined our board during the summer of 2022, live in our countries of operation. As a result, 44% of our board is African, emphasizing Village Enterprise’s commitment to having proximate leadership at all levels of our organization.
10. Village Enterprise’s transformative work recognized by Stanford University
In June, Village Enterprise CEO and President Dianne Calvi was awarded the President’s Award for the Advancement of the Common Good from Stanford University. This honor recognizes Stanford alumni who have positively and sustainably changed the trajectory of people’s lives in their communities and around the world, and it is a testament to the transformative impact Village Enterprise has had on ending extreme poverty in Africa.
We’re thrilled at all that we accomplished in 2023 thanks to your steadfast support and the hard work of our stunning team. We can’t wait to go even further together in 2024!