Our Model

A cost-effective and sustainable approach to poverty alleviation

We work to end extreme poverty in rural Africa through entrepreneurship, innovation, and collective action.

The Village Enterprise poverty graduation model equips vulnerable women, refugees, and youth living in extreme poverty with the resources, training, and mentorship to start climate-smart businesses and savings groups. As a result of this community-based, holistic approach, participants in our program become entrepreneurs who are able to generate sustainable incomes, become financially self-reliant, cultivate resilience against climate change, conflict, and other unexpected shocks, and ultimately build brighter futures for themselves and their families.

Unlike many forms of international aid, our model is a dignified and sustainable approach that empowers our entrepreneurs to break the cycle of poverty themselves and equips them with business skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.

Our Poverty Graduation Model



Validated by two independent, randomized controlled trials, the Village Enterprise poverty graduation model equips people living in extreme poverty to become entrepreneurs by launching businesses together in groups of three. In order to make sure our entrepreneurs are set up for success, Village Enterprise provides business training, a seed capital grant, and ongoing mentorship from a local Village Enterprise business mentor. We also organize these first-time entrepreneurs into business savings groups of 30 people (10 business groups). Our business savings groups provide access to loans and growth capital, ensure a safe place for savings, and allow our entrepreneurs to build social capital.

Because our poverty graduation model is group-based and takes place over the course of only one year, our model is incredibly cost-effective. In fact, in our most recent randomized controlled trial, IDinsight found our program to have a 540% benefit-cost ratio, meaning for every $1 invested in our program, $5.40 of income is generated by our entrepreneurs.

An Inside Look at our Model


  • Village Enterprise works with communities to identify households living in extreme poverty using a Participatory Community Mapping Exercise and the Innovations for Poverty Action’s Poverty Probability Index.
  • Participants in our program live on $2.15 a day or less (the global poverty line), have no prior business training, and are unable to provide for their family’s basic needs.

Business Savings Groups

  • After enrolling in our program, participants form business savings groups (BSGs). BSGs are comprised of 30 entrepreneurs who meet weekly to build savings and support one another throughout the entirety of our program.
  • BSGs provide members with ongoing protection against financial shocks and access to growth capital, thus serving as a mutual safety net and support system. By pooling savings together, BSGs can provide loans to fellow members for emergencies or larger business purchases or expenses. 
  • As part of our BSGs, Village Enterprise invented Savings With A Purpose (SWAP). SWAP allows entrepreneurs to identify an asset they would like to save up for and set aside some of their weekly savings for that item. SWAP has been used by our entrepreneurs to purchase household essentials, livestock, and even motorbikes and new homes.


  • To support our entrepreneurs as they launch their first businesses, we provide extensive business skills and financial literacy training designed for participants who have limited or no formal education. 
  • The interactive training materials are led by our business mentors and use an approachable, visual, and concise format which focuses on learning by doing. The in-person lessons are delivered through a mixture of instruction, videos, and hands-on sessions.
  • The curriculum is designed to be holistic and includes modules around sustainability, goal-setting, family support, group dynamics, and leadership skills. 
    • Sustainability training ensures that new business activities promote environmental best practices, while leadership and life skills components of our training ensure greater gender equity.
    • The family support module of inviting the whole household to the conversation ensures that program participants—who are mostly women—are supported while participating in our program.
  • Our curriculum can easily be layered with additional components to meet unique needs of communities across Africa. For example, to help reduce the chronic rates of acute child malnutrition in northern Kenya, the curriculum in that region has additional training modules on nutrition and hygiene.

Seed Capital

  • After developing a business plan, three entrepreneurs launch one business of their choice together. Examples of businesses include retail stores, tailoring and textiles, livestock trading, barber shops, baking, and farming.
  • Each business group receives a grant of $180 USD to cover start-up costs and get their business off the ground. The grant is provided via mobile cash transfers at two key stages—the first portion is provided after they’ve completed their initial training, and then the second is provided six months later once their business mentor has evaluated their progress.


  • To support our entrepreneurs throughout our entire program, Village Enterprise hires business mentors directly from the communities where we work. During regular check-ins, business mentors provide targeted coaching on all aspects of launching and operating a business—from administrative logistics to navigating group dynamics—ensuring our entrepreneurs are equipped with everything they need for ongoing success.
  • Enumerators also conduct regular surveys to capture data about our entrepreneurs and the health of their businesses. This real-time data allows our business mentors to tailor their mentoring for greater business success and impact.

Access to Markets and Financial Inclusion

  • Because we operate in rural communities often out of reach of major cities, we work to ensure nearby markets can support our entrepreneurs’ businesses. Not only do we train our entrepreneurs on how to access and benefit from local markets, we also work with partners who are experts in market systems development and linking buyers and sellers with our entrepreneurs.
  • Whenever possible, we also connect our entrepreneurs with financial institutions and other government programs to help scale their businesses.

Graduation out of Poverty

  • After one year, each community holds a graduation ceremony for our entrepreneurs and celebrates all of their hard work and what they’ve accomplished. Additionally, BSGs equitably share out the money contributed to their savings since the start of the program. 
  • While our program formally ends at this point, the lasting impact for our entrepreneurs, as well as their families and communities, has only just begun.

Additional Components of our Model

The following key components are central to our poverty graduation model and run throughout each phase of our program: 

  • Women’s Empowerment—As 83% of our entrepreneurs are women, it’s crucial that our model empowers women to take on larger decision-making roles in their households and communities—often for the very first time. Backed by rigorous evidence from our first randomized controlled trial, our program has been proven to increase the mental health, well-being, and sense of economic standing for the women we serve. Learn more about our gender equity work here.
  • Building Climate Resilience—In order to adapt to the threats of climate change, we work with our entrepreneurs to develop diversified businesses and income streams, learn climate-smart farming techniques, and build non-financial safety nets—such as household gardens. Equipped with dependable, long term sources of income, our entrepreneurs are better prepared than ever to navigate climate change and other global shocks.
  • Digital Technology Solutions—To ensure our entrepreneurs have the best tools for their success, we’re piloting the DreamSave app across BSGs in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. This app allows our entrepreneurs to keep accurate and real-time business records on a smartphone. Not only has it been shown to increase savings and meeting attendance, but it provides our entrepreneurs with a reliable savings history to build credit. Learn more about our digital technology solutions here.