Our WEAVE project ran in Indonesia and Vietnam in 2020 and 2021. It successfully supported over 12,000 women entrepreneurs through our three online programmes – in the midst of the global pandemic. Elizabeth Wells, our Head of Entrepreneurship, shares how working through local partnerships formed a key catalyst for WEAVE’s impact.
WEAVE was delivered in partnership with USAID, Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ and in-country partners Kinara and WISE, using technology and assets developed with ExxonMobil Foundation.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships and are essential for addressing major global challenges such as women’s economic empowerment.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 17 is to “revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”. This recognises the vital role that partnerships have to play in achieving the SDGs – among them gender equality, of which women’s economic empowerment is a crucial component. This specific focus and emphasis on the importance of global partnerships for sustainable development has spurred more stakeholders to collaborate for greater results and impact. Local partners are now at the forefront of these multi-stakeholder partnerships, as local organisations are critical and essential stakeholders to achieving sustainable development.
The UN recognises that “a successful development agenda requires inclusive partnerships—at the global, regional, national and local levels—built upon principles and values, and upon a shared vision and shared goals placing people and the planet at the centre.”
While the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women brings over 10 years’ experience empowering women entrepreneurs globally, the Foundation’s team is very clear that its local partners play a central role in shaping the design, content and delivery approach for its projects, ensuring they are responsive to the specific needs of women entrepreneurs in each country where they work. This was particularly important for WEAVE, an innovative online training project for over 12,000 women entrepreneurs in Indonesia and Vietnam which was successfully delivered throughout the height of the pandemic. The Foundation’s partnership and collaboration with local organisations, Kinara Indonesia (Kinara) in Indonesia and the Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) in Vietnam, were a key contributor to WEAVE’s success.
From May 2020 to November 2021, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women responded to the emerging needs of women entrepreneurs in Vietnam and Indonesia with a new, wholly online pilot project, ‘Women Entrepreneurs Amplifying Ventures and Economies’ (WEAVE). The project promoted women’s economic empowerment through a three phased “learning journey” that brought together the Foundation’s three flagship programmes, tailored to women’s progression within their business’ development. This included:
- The Foundation’s mobile learning app, HerVenture, for 12,200 women at the early stages of their business.
- Six week online business management and investment readiness programme Road to Growth, for 266 women whose businesses had already been generating profit for 2 years and were seeking more investment.
- Mentoring Women in Business, the Foundation’s online professional mentoring scheme, delivered to 105 women with mature, existing businesses, carefully matching them with business professional mentors elsewhere in the region for six months.
While an evaluation of WEAVE is planned for later in 2022, early results from the project indicate 87% of women entrepreneurs trained have reported implementing improved business practices. The partnership among the Foundation, Kinara and WISE in WEAVE have been a driving force in supporting women entrepreneurs to make these important changes in their lives.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships leverage the unique expertise of each stakeholder in the partnership. It is essential to include local organisations in these partnerships from the very beginning to enable sustainable impact.
The Foundation is recognised globally for its contributions to promoting women’s economic empowerment for women in low and middle income countries. Its track record of successfully implementing women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment programmes for over a decade makes it an important stakeholder in the women’s economic empowerment space. One of the strengths of the Foundation is that its tried-and-tested programmes are designed to be replicated with adaptations based on continuous learning, contextualised based on local needs and context and scaled – enabling them to be delivered worldwide to achieve meaningful results.
Kinara’s proven track record delivering business accelerator and incubator programmes, which teach Indonesian women entrepreneurs business skills to grow their businesses, enabled them to have a unique insight into the entrepreneurship landscape in Indonesia. Their networks with other stakeholders in the women’s economic empowerment ecosystem and experience across the country meant Kinara could provide a nuanced understanding of the different needs of Indonesian women owned micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Similarly, WISE’s strong background in delivering entrepreneurship skills training and mentoring to Vietnamese women entrepreneurs as well as linking them with potential investors makes them an important player in the women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment landscape in Vietnam. Their strong local networks also enable them to effectively collaborate with other stakeholders in the ecosystem throughout the country and understand the different profiles and needs of women-owned MSMEs.
The partnership amongst these three stakeholders was well designed from WEAVE’s inception to leverage each stakeholder’s unique experience. Kinara and WISE, informed by their knowledge of the women’s entrepreneurship ecosystems and landscapes in Indonesia and Vietnam, combined with the market assessment conducted before delivery began, were instrumental in shaping the delivery and geographic focus for WEAVE’s training activities. This expertise was essential throughout implementation as they understood the nuances of the needs of women entrepreneurs – particularly throughout the pandemic.
Providing local organisations with the space to shape and inform programme design, delivery and content is a cornerstone of a collaborative muti-stakeholder partnership that encourages locally led development. This approach through WEAVE ensured the project responded to the different needs of women entrepreneurs in Indonesia and Vietnam.
WISE and Kinara worked closely with the Foundation team to adapt its flagship training programmes—HerVenture, Road to Growth and Mentoring Women in Business—to ensure they addressed the needs of the Indonesian and Vietnamese women entrepreneurs that they set out to support.
Bringing an internationally designed program to a local context required a lot of adaptation and customization, and we were happy to receive timely and valuable support from the Foundation’s team to ensure that the WEAVE trainings are tailored to the Vietnamese context.
Although the Foundation had previously delivered its HerVenture and Mentoring Women in Business programmes in both Indonesia and Vietnam, WEAVE was the first time Road to Growth had been delivered in both countries. It was also the first time the Foundation brought all three trainings together to form a sustained learning journey for women entrepreneurs. Therefore, Kinara and WISE’s insights into adapting the content and delivery approaches for the three phases individually—as well as the combined learning journey—were essential.
Kinara and WISE were instrumental in driving forward the approaches to reach HerVenture users across Indonesia and Vietnam. Their knowledge of how to reach the project’s target audience resulted in each partner using different approaches – with Kinara leveraging Instagram and hosting Instagram Live events that featured successful women entrepreneurs as one of their most successful outreach approaches. WISE found that marketing through Facebook and leveraging its networks to disseminate HerVenture and reach the target audience was the most effective method in Vietnam.
It was particularly important for Kinara and WISE to be closely involved in preparing the launch of Road to Growth in Bahasa Indonesia and Vietnamese to ensure the translations used language that participants would relate to rather than formal forms of both languages. Additionally, Road to Growth was initially designed to introduce and connect women entrepreneurs to bank representatives to learn about potential loan products – but in both Indonesia and Vietnam, participants expressed interested in learning about other types of financing opportunities, resulting in the team adapting the information shared with participants. These are two critical examples of the importance of local organisations’ involvement to ensure programmes are responsive to the local context.
The important role that local partners like Kinara and WISE have in multi-stakeholder partnerships became even more evident as the world began to understand the full impact of the pandemic on everyone’s daily lives. Just months into WEAVE, the Foundation, Kinara, WISE and the donors made the decision to transition Road to Growth to be a fully online training – despite initially being designed as a blended learning programme.
Kinara and WISE were at the forefront of this adaptation, identifying the additional support that most participants required – with many never having done fully online trainings previously. Through their direct engagement with the women entrepreneurs, they also identified the potential risks that fully online trainings could have in keeping up motivation when women couldn’t get directly with their peers. Yet both partners knew immediately how to navigate this. Both had dedicated training sessions on Zoom for how to navigate the Learning Management System used for Road to Growth. They both also ensured that their trainers were available to provide one-to-one support to participants throughout the course when they needed it, ensuring they maintained momentum.
The Foundation is clear, from both its research and from qualitative feedback from women entrepreneurs themselves, that women business owners have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were balancing keeping their businesses afloat with managing additional unpaid care responsibilities at home – all while participating in WEAVE. Despite the difficult circumstances in which WEAVE was delivered, the Road to Growth completion rate of 67% is a real testament to the important role that Kinara and WISE had in keeping participants motivated and engaged to complete the training.
Local organisations are trusted and have networks that enable programmes to have wider reach and impact.
Despite organisations like the Foundation having a global brand, it is often the local partner organisations that are recognised with the local ecosystem and have the networks that give credibility to internationally funded programmes like WEAVE.
Through a sustained learning approach, WEAVE facilitated and encouraged women entrepreneurs to grow beyond their imaginations. We are also grateful for the collaborative culture that the Foundation has promoted since the beginning of our partnership.
This highlights the importance of partnerships to enable programmes to have maximum reach and impact. Under WEAVE, the team saw the importance of partners’ networks in achieving reach in different geographic locations beyond capital cities in Indonesia and Vietnam.
While we know that networking with other women entrepreneurs is often an important part of a woman’s entrepreneurial journey, with lack of access to networks forming a key barrier to women’s business ownership in low and middle income countries, WEAVE highlighted that networks are also important assets for a delivery and partnership approach. Although the Foundation delivered WEAVE through one core delivery partner in Vietnam and one in Indonesia, by leveraging WISE and Kinara’s networks with other women’s economic empowerment organisations to run the Road to Growth element, they were able to reach more women entrepreneurs. They also reached different geographical areas in each country faster and more efficiently and were then able to deliver multiple training cohorts at the same time.
The partnership amongst the Foundation, Kinara and WISE was underpinned by a culture of regular lesson sharing, learning and reflection. Despite distinction differences in the contexts and women’s economic empowerment ecosystems in Indonesia and Vietnam, this approach proved to be particularly important when none of the stakeholders could travel to meet each other in-person or meet WEAVE participants due to county wide COVID-19 lockdown restrictions throughout implementation. It also fostered a truly collaborative partnership to advance women’s economic empowerment.
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