I recently came across a fascinating initiative where civil society organizations have played a lead role in building public-private partnerships in economic development activities. The USAID -sponsored Education for Income Generation (EIG)  program has brought together local, national and international partners in galvanizing disadvantaged youth to partake in income generating activities toward increasing economic activities and peace building process in post-conflict Nepal. 
The NGO Winrock International has been contracted as the lead agency to implement the EIG program in Nepal. The NGO liaises with a diverse set of partners at local and national levels, including private sectors, government line ministries and civil society organizations to assess market opportunities and prepare youth for the market needs in the designated program districts. The NGO works with community based organizations to identify program beneficiaries and mobilizes private firms to assess market opportunities and provide training in the identified market areas to the program beneficiaries. The training follows a business literacy curriculum that provides the semi-literate clientele with basic record keeping and math skill development, which serves as a foundation for specialized training (vocational skill, agricultural productivity or enterprise training), depending on the interest and aptitude of the program beneficiaries as well as market needs.
The lead NGO contractor has played an important role in forging partnerships and creating synergy among different stakeholders in connecting youth with training providers and potential employers and in reinforcing market-driven principles in disadvantaged regions of Nepal. To ensure that the EIG activities are aligned with national development planning and prioritization, the NGO has instituted national and local advisory committees that include representatives of government ministries, planning commission, private sectors and civil society organizations. The NGO is also responsible for regularly monitoring performance and suitability of the training to program clientele and whether the graduates of the program are meeting the employment or income generation goals of the program. For wider outreach of the program, the NGO is working with communication and media partners through newsletters, radio and TV programs. The NGO is in the process of visually documenting the impact of the program in each of its 15 project districts for national telecast.
According to the project brief, the impact assessment conducted in the 3rd year of the 5-year program indicated that more than 80% of trainee graduates have jobs or have become self employed with monthly income of 2,400 rupees or above (meeting the project goal). Similarly, more than half of the target population have been trained in high-value agriculture production and are linked to private sector agriculture input and output market as of date. The program claims that on average, participants have doubled their income and increased their access to nutritious food (vegetables and animal source-protein) . Additionally, the program has lead to increased food security in food insecure districts, according to program claims.
By recognizing the strength of civil society organizations in mobilizing public and private sectors to reach out to and support the disadvantaged youth around income generating opportunities, the EIG program has rightfully designated an NGO as a lead contractor in implementing an economic development program. Based on the apparent success of this program, I expect to see more coming online in the near future.
Photo Credit: EIG Program, Winrock
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