BFP: What do you do?
WD: I am the Head of Community Relations for Barclays Africa. I manage our Community investment strategy across 10 countries in Africa. I develop partnerships with NGOs that provide innovation solutions to social issues that matter to the community and the Bank. In addition, I manage our philanthropic donations and colleague volunteering programme.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
WD: The job allows me to make a difference. It provides a unique opportunity to set up innovative projects that tackle poverty on the continent. Meeting the beneficiaries, speaking to them and hearing how such projects have impacted their lives and that of their families is the most rewarding experience.
One of our most innovative projects is the Banking on Change project which promotes saving-led microfinance groups across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Seeing people who previously did not have the opportunity to save or access loans, now using these products to improve their lives, is remarkable.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge?
WD: Development is multifaceted and finding one panacea is impossible. Therefore finding the right idea, the appropriate partners and willing community members to make projects sustainable is a big challenge. But once these factors are in place, it is amazing to see the radical transformation a small amount of money and effort can have on whole communities.
BFP: What advice can you give others wanting to implement similar initiatives?
WD: Look for innovative ideas. There are many problems out there and many solutions. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. To be different, you need to find the new ideas.
To find these ideas, speak to the intended beneficiaries. Do not just read about the beneficiaries, go into the community, understand what their challenges really are and what they actually need. In my experience, they often have the solutions; it is our job to listen and understand these solutions, articulate them and turn them into models that can be replicated and expanded.
To overcome my challenges, I have been very focused on what change I want to see happen in the community. Improving a person’s life depends on many factors and when you have a lot of passion for this, it is easy to get distracted which leads to trying many things. This ends up with little impact and it makes it difficult to understand what it is one has achieved.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
WD: Pick an area that you are most passionate about. Health, education, financial inclusion, etc. Meet people in the community, from children to old people. Old people tell you how their world was, giving you insights as to what was good. Middle-aged people tell you what their world is now and what they are doing to make it better. Children tell you how they see their world in the future.
Read what many NGOs, academics and commentators have written about the specific area. There is a wealth of information already available containing many hidden ideas that are waiting to be explored further and scaled up.
BFP: Finally, what do you hope to get out of being part of this community?
WD: Business Fights Poverty is an amazing way of meeting like-minded people, people who have the passion of creating a world where all people can live the kind of lives they want to.
Businesses have a unique role to play in fighting poverty. People work for businesses and businesses generate the wealth that is required to fight poverty effectively.
I hope to share ideas with others and also hear what other businesses are doing to fight poverty.
Thank you to Will Derban for taking the time to do this interview.