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Grassroots Business Initiative shows social enterprises how to fish

Michael Figueroa's picture

The Grassroots Business Initiative (GBI) is the brainchild of the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).  Launched in 2004, the GBI supports innovative social enterprises – dubbed Grassroots Business Organizations (GBOs) – that directly engage the poor as entrepreneurs, consumers, employees and suppliers, offering financing and capacity building know-how to GBOs.

With some 30 projects throughout the world, the GBI is increasingly active in Asia.  In Cambodia and Indonesia the GBI works with CraftNetwork, a design and export promotion center that links international buyers with producers of high-quality handicrafts.  CraftNetwork recently launched a new e-commerce site, and also has an eBay storeDigital Divide Data, another GBI-supported Cambodian social enterprise, trains poor and disabled people in computer and English skills, answering a global business need for basic data services.  DDD has already passed the $275,000 mark providing information and communications technology (ICT) services to clients such as Harvard University’s Crimson newspaper

Hagar, a Swiss non-governmental organization (NGO) operating in Cambodia, creates sustainable employment opportunities for formerly homeless women. These opportunities include Hagar Soya, Cambodia’s first soymilk factory, and Hagar Design, specializing in high-end silk products for export.  Indonesia Business Links-Young Entrepreneurs Start-Up Program (YES) focuses on technical assistance to youth-owned businesses, with funding support for business competition grants and business development services.

GBI-sponsored enterprises sell many of their products through the Pangea Artisan Market, a bricks-and-mortar store open to the public at the IFC’s headquarters in Washington, DC.