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 store. Digital 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.