The power of knowledge can be used to transform communities. When people, at all stages of their lives, have a better understanding of the demands and constraints of their environment, they make better, more sustainable and more profitable decisions. The provision of information and knowledge can fuel innovation and enable individuals and communities to lift themselves out of poverty. When suppliers of services understand the needs of their clients they can be more responsive to these; when agricultural producers know about changing techniques they can use this to their advantage; when information about market trends trickles down to small scale businesses they can respond rapidly to new opportunities; and when women and men understand the business environment they can become effective entrepreneurs.
Indian agriculture is dominated by small landowners, with 83% of farmers tilling plots smaller than five acres. Tata Consultancy Services helped sugar and dairy cooperatives build and manage their knowledge by working with them to develop an IT solution tailored to their needs. The result is mKRISHI®, a mobile and web based platform that provides timely and valuable services to Indian farmers. By linking farmers with agricultural experts to provide them with tailored crop advice, a 15% increase in farmers’ productivity has been achieved.
Farmers are also grouped together onto a common platform, helping them to collaborate to buy seeds and fertiliser in bulk. Farmers have also gained greater leverage in their commercial transactions, for example, farmers were able to cut the interest rates on their loans from 30-50% to 16%. Since piloting mKRISHI® in Chennai in 2011, a further 9 projects have gone ahead and 28 are in the pipeline. By providing technology to those who need it most, this service is projected to generate revenue of more than US$500 million projected over the next five to seven years.
KPMG uses the power of its skills, knowledge and resources to alleviate global poverty through its Global Development Initiative (GDI). Through the GDI KPMG works alongside governments, civil society groups, international agencies and other private sector organizations to become fully involved in finding effective and sustainable solutions to global and local poverty issues. For example, through a global partnership with Women’s World Banking and VisionFund International, KPMG’s Women’s Networks are providing leadership training and mentoring to help female leaders of microfinance institutions. KPMG also advances the development agenda through thought leadership, for example The 2013 KPMG Change Readiness Index, produced in partnership with Oxford Economics assesses the ability of 90 countries (developed and developing) to manage change. Focused around three pillars; enterprise capability, Government capability and people and civil society capability, the index can help countries understand their capacity to respond to change, caused by shocks such as natural disasters or longer term trends like technology, demographics, global competition and investment. KPMG has the scale, influence and insight to make a significant and positive contribution to the issues affecting its communities and environments. The KPMG commitment to the Millennium Development Goals provides an action and values based focus of engagement for its 152,000 professionals.
In 2008, believing in the potential of women to grow GDP in emerging markets, Goldman Sachs launched 10,000 Women, one of the largest corporate investments in women’s economic empowerment at that time. This $100 million initiative commits to provide 10,000 women around the world with a business and management education. 10,000 Women operates through a network of more than 90 academic and non-profit institutions. These partnerships help develop first-rate business training tailored to country-specific needs, mentoring, networking opportunities, and links to capital. The programme is filling a gap in the provision of services to women running small businesses, not only providing them with knowledge and education, but also helping them to enhance their confidence as entrepreneurs and support other positive social outcomes for their families.
10,000 Women will achieve its goal of reaching 10,000 women around the world by the end of 2013. The initiative has trained women from 43 countries including Brazil, India, and China as well as Afghanistan and Liberia. 83% of surveyed participants have increased their revenues and 74% have created new jobs. The data also shows that 9 out of 10 participants are ‘paying forward’ the benefits of the programme by, for example, mentoring other women on business skills.
“10,000 Women helped me develop confidence in myself that I didn’t know was there. I just needed the proper tools to succeed.” This is the view of Ayodeji, a 10,000 Women participant in Nigeria and owner of No Left Overs, a catering and hospitality business. Ayo started her business in 2007 making local bean cakes for friends and family. Since graduating from 10,000 Women, her business has grown to 70 employees and recently she opened a restaurant and moved to a larger facility.
Over 1,000 employees globally have supported the 10,000 Women Initiative including through mentoring and business advising, putting into practice their expertise, experiences and diverse backgrounds.
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This blog is part of a series with Business in the Community to mark the launch of theUnilever International Award, supported by Business Fights Poverty.
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This article also appears on the BITC Blog.