Published on Jobs and Development

Experiences from the Field—Part 1: Fighting Poverty One Idea at a Time

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In Kisii County, Kenya, village youth and women receive a hen and a cage. In Minas Gerais, Brazil, prisoners receive job training, sometimes leaving for work during the day and coming back at night. In Dendjola, Mali, masons are taught a 3,000 year-old building technique. And globally, thousands of employers and workers are offered an online workplace to connect without geographic limits.


These are the novel approaches that some winners of the JKP's Experiences from the Field (EFF) contest, concluded in spring 2013, are taking to create jobs and improve employment opportunities. The seven winners—from North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia, and North America—represent innovative efforts of NGOs, governments, academia, social enterprises, donors, and international organizations (see box).

The JKP launched the EFF contest in spring 2012 to create a space to showcase examples of projects on the ground, so that people and institutions could easily learn from each other's experiences, successes, and failures. The database is now filled with project profiles and results on more than 136 initiatives that can be sorted by country, region, or type of intervention.

Together, the EFF winners highlight how one person, or a few colleagues, can have a far-reaching impact on an individual's life, and even on a village or region, just by pursuing one idea at a time. Over time, these projects as a group boosted wages, incomes, skills, job creation, self-sufficiency, and ownership. They have also together lowered crime and violence, recidivism, jobless rates, isolation, hopelessness, and poverty. They are doing this by improving access to information and offering skills training—in the process, transforming, and in some instances revolutionizing, how the labor market functions.

Time to Innovate, One Project at a Time

Despite the diversity of the projects—in approach, size, and country circumstances—a number of best practices stand out.

 L-shaped Nubian vault home in the Sahel. Photo Credit Association La Vôute Nubienne

First, answers can come from both cutting-edge and ancient techniques. The Babajob and oDesk projects show us that mobile apps, digital exchanges, and online exchanges can overcome a variety of hurdles—geographic, economic, political, bureaucratic, and social—to better connect employers and jobseekers. The Nubian vault project, which adapts an ancient Egyptian building technique—timberless vaulted roofs made of earth (adobe) bricks, using only locally sourced materials (earth, water, rocks)—suggests that it's one’s ancestors that might be worth consulting [See video].

Second, development can be facilitated without creating dependency. The key is teaching those with very little how to build their own income stream and ameliorate a bad situation. In Burkino Faso, it's a virtuous circle of clients, masons, and apprentices [See video]. In Kenya, one single mother with four kids managed to parlay one hen into 25 hens and a village salon, helping her to feed and educate her family [See video].

Third, it's critical to involve all the stakeholders. For APAC (Associação de Proteção e Assistência aos Condenados), this meant getting the buy-in of the public and private sectors, as well as civil society—there are now Brazilian laws promoting reintegration and tax incentives for companies to hire former inmates. In India, Babajob hopes the government will help the informal worker job market by providing accurate data on jobseekers [See video].

Fourth, give people the chance to transform themselves. In Tunisia, a university graduate program helps students turn themselves into entrepreneurs. In Azerbaijan, an internally displaced persons (IDP) project helps youth move beyond isolation and hopelessness to start businesses or secure jobs. In Brazil, a rehabilitation project offers prisoners the chance to demonstrate their employability [See Video].

A convict in a Minas Gervais APAC training for a job. Photo Credit AVSI Foundation

Fifth, give youth a chance to demonstrate creditworthiness. A key development constraint in many countries is lack of microcredit, especially for youth. In Tunisia, some prize-winning projects weren't realized because of a lack of sufficient credit. The One Hen Campaign is managing with awards and a few grants, but says it's time for financial institutions to realize that there's a new breed of youth who are creditworthy [See video].

One Village Hen, One Borderless Job

So there we are. Fighting poverty in Kenya one hen at a time. Reducing violence and recidivism in Brazil, one APAC prison at a time. Building ecological houses in the Sahel, one Nubian vault at a time. Creating entrepreneurs out of university graduates in Tunisia, one business plan at a time. Giving hope to young IDPs in Azerbaijan, one vocational course at a time. Connecting the informal sector in India, one mobile call at a time. And freeing people globally to work together without geographic limits, one borderless job at a time.

In Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this EFF contest series we'll take a closer look at the One Hen Campaign Project, the APAC Professional Qualification Project, and A Roof + A Skill + A Market.


Winners of the spring 2013 Experiences from the Field (EFF) contest

Most Recommended (Most Popular Approach)
Winner: One Hen Campaign Project. Gives a hen and training to youth and women in rural Kenya to support entrepreneurship with poultry products.
Runner-up: oDesk's Online Work. Provides an online workplace to enable skilled people in developing countries or facing weak job markets to obtain jobs; helps businesses thrive with limited resources.

Most Promising Approach
Winner: APAC's Professional Qualification Projects. Teaches employable skills to inmates in Brazil.
Runner-up: A Roof + A Skill + A Market. Facilitates apprenticeships with masons to develop a self-sustaining market in affordable housing in the Sahel.
Runner-up: Offers a digital job exchange for informal sector and entry-level workers in India to make access to nearby, better paying jobs available to everyone via Voice, SMS, mobile apps, and the web.

Best Addresses Political Economy and Implementation Challenges
Winner: Turning Theses into Enterprises. Increases self-employment among university graduates in Tunisia by improving skills and shaping attitudes toward entrepreneurship.
Runner-up: Azerbaijan Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Youth Support Project. Offers vocational training and small business support to young IDPs to boost social inclusion, employment, and entrepreneurship.

Winners in the Most Recommended category were selected by open, online voting. The other winners were selected by the JKP's partners (IZA, IDRC, McKinsey, ERF, LACEA, Fedesarrollo, and REALM/AMERU. The top contestant in each category received a $5,000 cash prize.

This post was first published on the Jobs Knowledge Platform.


Laura Wallace

Editor, Jobs and Development Blog

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