Collaborating for impact: lessons learned from our long-term partnership with Qualcomm
Reflecting on the lessons learned through our five-year collaboration.
Hiram Lopez-Landin, Manager of Government Affairs, Qualcomm, Incorporated and Elizabeth Wells, Head of Entrepreneurship at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, reflect on the lessons learned through the two organisations’ 5+ year collaboration.
As the long-term and highly instrumental collaboration between the Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ Initiative and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women comes to a close, we reflect on what we have learned from our collaboration and how the lessons can be taken forward – both within Wireless Reach and the Foundation’s work and future engagements.
A strong match with bold ambitions
The Foundation initially collaborated with Qualcomm Incorporated to support the expansion of our online Mentoring Women in Business programme across Asia. Qualcomm, as a leading wireless tech innovator is strongly aware of the potential tech holds for development, were an ideal partner. Through our strong relationship with mentoring, we realised the potential for us to extend our collaboration to investing in a new product – HerVenture, a mobile application that launched in Vietnam in 2018, – and bringing Road to Growth to Vietnam and Indonesia for the first time in 2020. While at the time, HerVenture was a far-reaching idea for making resources readily available to women entrepreneurs, the innovation continues to make a tremendous difference in people’s lives.
Long term collaborations for impact
Qualcomm has since been a long-standing collaborator of the Foundation’s and has supported both the enhancement of its programmes as well as advised on its strategy development. Wireless Reach’s investment has directly supported the growth of the Foundation’s HerVenture, Road to Growth and Mentoring Women in Business programmes, which have gone on to reach tens of thousands of women around the world. Our most impactful success together is HerVenture, which has reached over 80,000 women in six countries since its initial launch in Vietnam in 2018.
As Vietnam was the first country where HerVenture was available, the Foundation, our Hanoi-based local partner WISE and Qualcomm worked closely together to figure out how best to disseminate the app to women entrepreneurs who could benefit from the entrepreneurship skills training it offers. We realised that taking a new digital product to a new country requires some initial testing to assess how best to reach the target audience as well as sustained marketing and brand campaigns to build the awareness and relationships that will make it a success.
Private sector collaborators, like Qualcomm Wireless Reach, have huge potential to support impact at scale and building long-term relationships with organisations like the Foundation can enable them to achieve this.
Qualcomm’s commitment to investing in and supporting HerVenture over four years was critical to the Foundation and WISE building the sustained momentum needed to ensure that the app continues to reach women beyond both the lifespan and scope of our engagement. This approach meant that we in turn could plan for building strong, sustainable brand awareness over time and establish long-term collaboration with local women’s business associations and other business support organisations who would disseminate the app to their networks. The year-on-year increase in app users is indicative of success in this respect. In our first year we reached just under 3,000 women, and in 2022 alone we reached more than 8,000. In total, we’ve reached over 28,000 women across Vietnam since the start of our collaboration, and expect this number to continue to grow thanks to HerVenture having become embedded into the women’s entrepreneurship landscape over the years.
Qualcomm’s investment has also resulted in the Foundation attracting interest and investment from other organisations, both in Vietnam as well as more widely, including the ASEAN-USAID IGNITE programme, a USAID-funded activity. This has enabled the Foundation to take the app to a further five countries (with ambitions for many more) and reaching over 80,000 women to date.
Through Wireless Reach, we pioneer uses of Qualcomm’s innovations to drive human and economic progress. We are extremely proud of the program’s accomplishments and the interest its generating for others to also invest.
Through our work together, the Foundation and Wireless Reach have been able to build a deep understanding of each other’s priorities and ambitions for growth. This insight, as well as the trusted relationship our organisations have with each other, has facilitated valuable peer-to-peer discussions on our organisations’ direction and strategy.
Peer-to-peer advisory support in a collaboration not only requires trust, but also a shared understanding of organizational ambitions. Both the Foundation and Wireless Reach were aligned on using technology to support entrepreneurship development in emerging economies.
This year, the Foundation will launch our new strategy, which focuses on significantly scaling up our work in order to reach one million more women entrepreneurs, so we can rapidly accelerate progress for women across the world. This will be achieved in part by using technology to enable innovation for our programmes to achieve scale. Hiram was among the first external stakeholders to review and advise on the new strategy in its development stages, offering valuable insight on the future of mobile technology as it intersects with our own ambitions.
Tech for reach and digital inclusion
Qualcomm and the Foundation both have ambitions to scale our reach throughout our collaboration – and saw that investing in digital products was one of the key ways that we could jointly achieve this. Qualcomm’s commitment to investing in and promoting digital initiatives proved critical to the Foundation’s programming throughout the pandemic – ensuring that it could reach women when they needed support most to sustain their businesses.
Expanding access through digital
Technology and digital products are key to achieving impact at scale – and we saw this first-hand through HerVenture throughout the duration of our relationship. Although our local partner WISE is based in Hanoi, the digital nature of HerVenture meant that we could reach women entrepreneurs across the country through social media as well as leveraging WISE’s networks. This meant we could reach women in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. Although the app was consistently received well in urban and peri-urban areas, in rural areas, we saw an overwhelmingly positive response to the app because of the limited training opportunities for women entrepreneurs in these regions.
Digital innovations and products like HerVenture not only create more opportunities for women to access entrepreneurship skills training, but they also make it easier for women to participate in training because they are flexible, and accessible, enabling women to access them in and around their busy lives.
Recognizing the importance of digital inclusion
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of ensuring that digital products are designed to be accessible and inclusive. Qualcomm’s support for the Foundation throughout the pandemic was critical to ensuring that we could continue to deliver our Road to Growth and Mentoring Women in Business programmes, despite the wider challenges and difficulties we were all experiencing more widely. Being able to reach women entrepreneurs throughout the pandemic also meant that we could offer them support to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on the businesses.
The importance of designing inclusive technology and digital products, particularly for emerging economies, was accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic and is a key consideration for any new product design now.
As the Foundation successfully ends its 100,000 Women Campaign, we recognize the important role that our collaboration with Wireless Reach has played in enabling us to achieve our target of reaching 100,000 women between 2019 and 2022. The lessons and insights have been instrumental in conceptualizing our new strategy, and will influence our work going forward.
Read stories of women supported by this collaboration...
Van Pham’s story: pioneering with plant protein
Van Pham used HerVenture to strengthen her startup and support her in bringing its plant based products to new markets.
Susi took part in all three of our flagship programmes through our WEAVE initiative. With our support, she turned her passion for Japanese food and culture into a thriving enterprise.
Yen took part in our Mentoring and Road to Growth programmes as well as using our HerVenture app. She gained new knowledge and support to strengthen her business through the pandemic, setting her on her way to achieving huge ambitions.