The “IGNITE” project is valuable to share since it leverages innovations at scale to reach over 3 million entrepreneurs with financing and business support in Pakistan, Peru, and Vietnam.
The project, financed by the MasterCard Foundation, is high-visibility since it provides those solutions in a manner specially tailored to the needs of community-level (mainly female) entrepreneurs, by (1) ensuring that those services are delivered by practitioners with deep experience working with female entrepreneurs, and by (2) delivering those services virtually on the entrepreneurs’ mobile phones.
I was asked by the VP of CARE to lead the kickoff of IGNITE. I worked with the project teams in Pakistan, Peru, and Vietnam to develop their project plans; I created a Master Plan for the leadership at CARE that rolled up each country’s plan.
Ignite has two sets of partners in each country: a financial services institution and a business training provider, each of whom create a digital solution to reach these community-level entrepreneurs via cell phone, obviating the need for them to travel in order to get services or training.
Working through these local partners, the program provides access to finance along with digital payment solutions, plus training in financial and business management skills, mentoring and coaching, all to women running micro-enterprises or interested in starting their own businesses.
In summary, the special features of this program involve:
– Developing new financial products to fit these community-level entrepreneurs’ needs (which are greater than the level available through microlending but not yet ready to access commercial bank loans.)
– Finding digital solutions to reach community-level entrepreneurs on their mobile phones (rather than requiring them to come to a central location for business training and mentoring.)
– Demonstrating that this model works well across varied regions: Latin America, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.
Success stories of the women who have participated in the program are showcased on the project website which also highlights the programs’ positive impact on their businesses and livelihoods.