Throughout our long history of working with orphans, Human Concern International has sought a participatory and empowering approach. Rather than building dependence on charity, we seek to make orphans self-reliant, and successful. To do so we have often used a business development approach, helping to develop youth with leadership, team-work, self-esteem, positive risk taking, and problem-solving. This encourages a continuous impact that will last long after the project has finished. Focusing on youth ensures a brighter future not only for those targeted, but also their peers, family, and community.
Youth participation in entrepreneurship has further knock-on effects. Studies have shown it improves their academic performance, and their self confidence. Furthermore, it exposes disadvantaged youth to successful professionals, and vice-versa. This builds social networks, and greater societal cohesion, as well as improving the self confidence of young orphans. It provides organizations with well trained and motivated young professionals, and can improve the economic outlook of entire communities as successful entrepreneurs grow their enterprises.
In the development field there are many different approaches to business development for disadvantaged groups. Broadly speaking there are five different categories:
1) Open for Business (OFB)
This approach was developed in Canada by the CEED (Centre for Entrepreneurship & Educational Development) during the 1990′s, and later spread to other parts of the world. The philosophy behind OFB is that everyone has the ability to be a successful entrepreneur through education and encouragement. Through workshops (so called “rockets”), day-long trainings (Business 4 A Day) and support from experienced young adults, young people are able to create, improve and implement their business ideas. Young leaders can relate to participants, and are effective in changing attitudes of participants by encouraging and motivating them. An essential part of all of the trainings is “learning by doing” – in order to learn entrepreneurship you have to make the move from theory to practice. It is an out-of-school program, although the workshops and lectures are often carried out during school hours, which may pose some difficulties as a lack of presence in schools can limit exposure.
2) Youth Enterprise Society Program (YES)
The YES Program, created by Ohio State University, targets youth at school with the goal of equipping them with skills appropriate for work and self-employment. It operates throughout the school year as an extracurricular activity. While in the program, students acquire business competencies through a set of special learning and experimental activities. Teachers, after receiving special training, serve as facilitators. Their objectives are to develop entrepreneurial skills, an enterprise culture, self-confidence, and self-reliance, all to make young people more able to respond and adapt to changing environments. The collaboration with schools and long term sustainability are its advantages, though it may be hindered by its inability to target youth who are out of school.
3) Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (REAL)
The REAL Enterprise Program targets high school students in rural areas of the USA by linking education with rural economic development, and by assisting young people to identify a business opportunity, prepare a business-plan, and initiate the businesses, all while they are still at school. These are later converted into real enterprises, owned by the former students. Students carry out a community survey to identify needs that could lead to business implementations. Once these are identified, business plans are developed, funds are secured and a business site is established, thus providing students the opportunity to learn the concepts and responsibilities of managing a business. REAL businesses are later independently owned and managed by students who have participated in the REAL Enterprise Program and have graduated from school. It benefits from active student participant and practical experience, but again fails to target those youth outside of the school system.
4) Youth Entrepreneurship Development Program (Y.E.D.P.)
Y.E.D.P is a Tanzanian registered non-governmental organization committed to helping youth in acquiring business skills, ICT training, and innovative skills through on school and off-school programs which encourage youth to embrace entrepreneurship. Their programs focus on people who are the most excluded from economic development. Y.E.D.P.’s focus is on teaching entrepreneurship in secondary schools, youth groups, and women groups. They teach, on a volunteer basis, the basic concepts in of entrepreneurship such as: opportunity recognition, market research, raising capital to prepare a business plans, business management, etc. It carries out activities both in and out of school, thus targeting a greater number of youth, with the long term goal of reducing HIV/AIDS rates by giving youth greater options. It is hindered by the fact that all of its work is on a volunteer basis, and thus may not be as reliable or professional.
5) The Start and Improve Your Business Program (SIYB)
The Start and Improve Your Business program, first started by the Swedish Employer’s Organization (SEO) and later adapted by the International Labor Organization (ILO), focuses on small businesses in developing countries. The goals are to contribute to economic growth in society and create employment possibilities. The short-term goals are to strengthen local business development service providers by delivering training to micro and small-scale entrepreneurs. The intended beneficiaries are potential and existing entrepreneurs, although the direct beneficiaries are partner organizations who provide training to micro and small-scale entrepreneurs locally. Though it is applicable to all micro or small-scale entrepreneurs, it does not target youth, nor those who do not already have a business idea.
HCI, after careful consideration of the pros and cons, now employs an adaptation of the Open for Business approach in our program in Sudan, as it is best suited to our climate and clients.
The OFB program is the only youth entrepreneurship program that focuses on short-term activities, combined with access to support and advice from adult leaders. The short-term activities could also be an advantage, in the sense that the participator must be independent and work autonomously or with business partners with the support from OFB leaders. Long-term activities create sustainability, but can also create feelings of helplessness when the project period ends.
OFB’s principle is that everyone has the possibility to enhance their qualities and skills through education and encouragement, thus becoming a successful entrepreneur. It is a concept aimed at promoting entrepreneurship as a way for young people to gain control over their future and create employment opportunities. The overall goal is to build a society with enterprising individuals – a society where young entrepreneurs are able to build their own businesses and become role models for other young people. This is why the Open for Business concept is the main strategy of our youth entrepreneurship project in Sudan.
Case Studies in Sudan:
The following examples show how HCI has put theory into practice in Sudan, where we are currently, and will continue to, work with disadvantaged orphans. Since May 2009, forty orphans, fourteen years of age and older, took part in the program named “Today’s Orphans, Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs.” Instead of being drawn into a passive cycle of receiving charity and relying on the kindness of others, the 40 orphans received the training and materials necessary to embark on their own business ventures. They were also given the opportunity to test their ideas under real-life circumstances, and took part in the “Business for a Day” program, in which they operate a business for one day.
In the business for a day program, 14-year-old orphan Afaf Adam chose to set up a Khashaf juice business. In the first stage, she was given 51 Sudanese Pound (SDG) as capital. By the end of the day her net profit was SDG 2. However, in the next day her profit increased to SDG 14.
16-year-old orphan Aicha Edris chose to sell coal and firewood on the side of the busy market. Her one-day-business left her with a net loss of SDG 1 by the end of day. However, her business was analyzed at the end of the day. Lessons learned were identified. As result, the next day she earned a net profit of %10 from the initial capital!
15-year-old orphan Baker Adam decided to set up a small catering business in the busy market. His initial capital of SDG 80 earned him a SDG 5 net profit by the end of the first day. However, in the second day he decided to set up another business: secondhand bicycles vendor. His initial capital of SDG 100 earned him a SDG 15 net profit by the end of the day.
Other examples include: Ahmed Othman’s secondhand furniture business which earned him %25 net profit in one day; Marwa Ahmed’s catering service which earned her %20 net profit in one day; And, Marwa Abdelrahman’s Fateer pastry business which earned her %31 net profit in one day.
The original capitals of the businesses as well as the profits made contributed to the original capital of an investment fund as part of an investment club which created as part of the program. The club is managed and run by the same orphans. This created meaningful, more long-term leadership roles with greater learning potential for orphan members. The fund is used to implement income-generation activities operated by the club.
Workshops were carried out designed specifically to encourage and build entrepreneurship amongst participants, during which different kinds of exercises were carried out. The groups received a number of stories and had to work on their problem solving skills. They were taught about pricing, location, and how to find business opportunities, all intended to give them the basis for a solid, successful business venture.
For example, youth were divided into groups and given specific information regarding a product, including: material costs, taxes, labor costs etc. They were then asked to determine a price for this product that would produce a reasonable profit. In doing so they learned how determining an appropriate price is crucial to sustainable business plans. Furthermore, they learned how to make a budget, and how to ensure that it is accurate.
They were also given tasks designed to instruct them on how to promote their business, as this is another pillar of successful entrepreneurship. They were asked questions about how businesses currently promote themselves in their area, and which promotion techniques they felt were the most effective. They learned the importance of identifying the senders of the message, the message itself, the medium, and its intended recipients.
Throughout the workshop different stories and problems were handed out to participants that needed to be solved and studied. They gave examples and lessons, such as the importance of supervision in order to avoid waste and maximize employee output. This exposed participants to real and tangible examples of the problems faced by start up businesses. Without an excessive focus on theory, participants could see how these workshops could be quickly translated into new business ventures, and were eager to participate.
Other than this, subjects such as how to build a good reputation, costumer service, distribution, insurance, quality control, and safety and security in the workplace were also studied. In order to analyze the market and make the most out of their businesses, the group got a chance to reflect upon and discuss issues concerning competition, availability, and the targeted costumer group.
They were asked questions related to number of customers, competition, target marketing, etc. For example: How many people pass by your store/shop every day? Do you have competitors in the area of your business? What is your plan to make your costumers prefer your services? By answering these questions they took the first steps towards developing a viable business model and plan.
The workshops carried out in Sudan gave these orphans real, relevant instruction on how to build a successful and sustainable business. It was based on the proven successes of the OFB approach, and will build the groundwork for the development of a new generation of young entrepreneurs eager to take action and improve their situations.