With the generous support of a MasterCard Foundation bursary I was able to attend a 3-week professional course on Livelihoods and Markets. The course was offered by the Coady International Institute, a world-renowned centre of excellence in community-based development and leadership education. The Institute was named in honour of Rev. Dr. Moses Coady, a prominent founder of the Antigonish Movement – a people’s movement for economic and social justice that began in Nova Scotia during the 1920s.
The course brought together a global classroom of 15 practitioners in the area of markets and livelihoods for 3-week intensive course. The classroom experienced was enriched by Coady’s educational philosophy which encourages learning from your classmates, as well as the instructors. My classmates shared their diverse experiences from their work as social responsibility consultants for Plan International in Kenya, to cooperative managers from SEWA (SEWA is the global leader in cooperative development, as they work with over 1.5 million poor women in India), accountants for credit unions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, value-chain experts in agribusiness in Bangladesh, to micro-finance managers from ACCESS India,
Our professors were seasoned experts in Livelihoods and Markets, drawing upon years of research and practitioner experiences. Senior Coady Staff and former Ford Foundation Fellow, Yogesh Kumar Ghore, and Ashoka Fellow, Farouk Jiwa lead us through the curriculum.
For poor producers, globalization has created many challenges. It has largely resulted in greater competition and less ability for poor producers to add value to their products. Micro and small entrepreneurs, as well as other organizations that work to support such producers must best understand how to enhance markets access for producers.
The curriculum focused on sustainable livelihoods and market development approaches for the poor. We learned the latest methodologies and practices for sub-sector and value-chain analysis. We had opportunities to research and develop value chains through field activities with Nova Scotia cooperatives, including Scotsburn Dairy and Co-op Atlantic.
Ensuring greater distributive justice in value chains (rewards / profits are distributed fairly among all value chain partners) is a challenge. With a case studies approach we explored and debated what role creative financing solution such as factoring may have to play in strengthening the tea value chain for farmers in Kenya. We looked at micro-franchising pilot programs in Rwanda offering health care solution to urban poor. Case studies took us to Bangladesh where we analyzed a complex dairy value chains with key bottle necks that were inhibiting female farmers. Social enterprises like Honey Care Africa and KickStart were also examined and their approaches discussed and contrasted. We engaged with concepts such as Base of the Pyramid, Triple Bottom Line, Pro-poor Financing. the 4 p’s of Marketing, and then dissected the spectrum from social responsibility to social enterprise.
I left the course with valuable tools to add to my social enterprise development. Through value-chain analysis, I am able to examine key constrains for micro and small producers from market access, input supply, technology / product development, management training, policy reform, to available finance solutions. I have also left with a new global network of practitioners, innovators and researchers in this field!
Lastly, it left my head spinning with all sorts of ideas and concepts! I’ll be sure to blog about them in the upcoming weeks! Stay posted!