For over four years I have been involved in intense study on the issue of have to help people in poverty. My focus has been finding ways to do so without creating limiting dependencies or costing these proud people their dignity. My trips to Uganda have been a large part of these efforts, and over the course of the next four blogs I want to share some of the experiences and learning these trips have allowed me to gain.
I want to begin with the issue of fighting dependency.
During my numerous trips to Uganda, including the one I just returned from, I took the opportunity to discuss their ongoing programs with the leaders of various established charities. I do admire the work of all charities and especially those who are fighting against poverty.
A main discussion point in all of these meetings however was the issue of creating dependency, something that may lead to efforts to help not really helping and at, and perhaps even causing more harm than good.
Charities are chronically underfunded, especially those in developing countries. The dependency on donations is so high that a lot of great programs never really get started or have to halt their good work.
This is the reason why, when you read my blogs, comments or hear me speaking, I emphasize over and over again how important it is to create programs where we create independence.
Of course, we depend on donations too, but our vision is that all administrative costs could be covered by our self-contained fair trade business model, which brings wealth into the communities and helps us to finance our sustainable work.
With Bluseeds – Dignity and Hope we aim to adapt and to develop a link to or extension of existing poverty programs but implement our own vision of what we want to do. This can be broken down into three elements
1.) To foster the success of the seed- funded business and its owner; trade not aid.
2.) To encourage and empower entrepreneurs to be able to reinvest their seed-funding by passing it along to someone else. This is designed to restore dignity, encourage the habit of saving and introduce the concept of community wealth creation.
3.) To boost seeded businesses to the next level via additional education and training.
Our focus is to create socially responsible and independent wealth in impoverished communities, and in Uganda we have been able to demonstrate that it works.
As a society need to recognize the tremendous potential of impoverished people, particularly women and the next generation to come. I fully believe in their strength and ability to be self-employed entrepreneurs, and then to employ and invest in others.
People in Uganda know how to survive in the most difficult situations, but often have never learned how to develop a great business idea into sustainable and independent wealth creation. Instead are thy focused what others are doing, try to copy them and fail.
For example: In the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda was a street without a hairdresser, and yet if there were one there would have been a high demand. This was a great opportunity for us to empower and enable a talented individual to open one.
And we did. And she did well. So, well she was soon employing an assistant. The problem was that as others saw how well she was doing they tried to copy her. Far too many copycat salons sprung up, some funded by expensive loans the would be entrepreneurs could not afford and it was not long before supply was exceeding demand and what began as a good idea was becoming a threat to some locals livelihood and well-being.
It's this pattern that we want to change. Private micro loans can be crippling, as they often come along with excessive interest rates. Essentially the recipients risk becoming cheap labor, gaining nothing for their efforts personally as their focus is the payback of the loan.
So, we are facing three main challenges – community development under the law of “free market”, the dependency on loans with excessive interest rates and the need to develop the community knowledge of ethical business principles and practices. We are devoted to solving these issues however, to achieve successful community development.
In my next blog I will be sharing more insights about one of our, in my view, most inspiring success stories.
What do you think about everything I've just shared? Please leave a comment and let me know.
Thank you !