While impact investing has become a buzzword in global development in recent years, the concept and practice had been around for decades before the sector even had a name. To take one perhaps under-recognized example, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) was launched as an investment club in 1953, when a group of North American Mennonite business people joined together to support the development of businesses in Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.
What was the best part of convention?
“Sharing our stories and seeing God’s work through his people in so many ways.”
“The presentations were stellar.”
“Variety of seminars! So hard to choose one!”
“Being with like-minded people all focused on the same goal of supporting MEDA and business solutions to poverty.”
Last month, I had an amazing opportunity to attend the Women's World Banking 2017 Making Finance Work for Women Summit (MFWW). Over 300 participants gathered in Dar es Salaam from across the African continent and the globe, representing various organizations, institutions, and firms, to engage and deliberate on key trends, topics, opportunities and challenges concerning women's financial inclusion. I was inspired by the speakers and panelists who shared their stories, insight and vision for the future of women's financial inclusion.
In this post, I want to share three key takeaways I have reflected on after returning from the Summit. My hope is that they give a glimpse of the event and speak to my own learning about the state of women's financial inclusion and what the future may hold.
White foam washes gently up the beach on an idyllic Mediterranean island. In the darkness, a young woman struggles ashore. Clearly exhausted, she is missing many of her heavier clothes, sacrificed to the struggle to stay alive in the dark sea. But she is on shore now, and safe. For now. One treasure she has clung to – a small plastic bag with a few things tightly wrapped in it. It is the first thing she reaches for when she reaches the beach. Relief floods her body when she discovers that not only does she have the bag, but it is dry inside. The old Huawei smart phone shows a low battery warning and won’t start.
At Christmas, we pray for peace on Earth, and goodwill to all. Our work of creating business solutions to poverty makes a critical contribution to peacekeeping.
With your support, we create opportunities for social inclusion and both household and community cohesion, and work to ensure that the tools to build sustainable livelihoods are made available to marginalized individuals and their families.
Considered one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life, this bustling city on the Pacific coast is an exciting place to host our #MEDACon2017. This fall, MEDA is hosting Business as a Calling: Building Bridges to Enduring Livelihoods. What could be better than world-renowned speakers, fine dining, tours of local businesses and times for networking with emerging and seasoned leaders alike?
In this TEDtalk, Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of the international humanitarian organization War Child, explores the global arms trade -- and suggests a bold, common sense solution for ending the cycle of violence. "War is ours," she says. "We buy it, sell it, spread it and wage it. We are therefore not powerless to solve it."
MEDA is on the move. With projects in 60 countries around the world building on partnerships with hundreds of local leaders and businesses, there is no shortage of MEDA momentum as staff strive to alleviate poverty through savvy business solutions.
The flurry of activity is not limited to seemingly far-away corners of the world.
MEDA supporters in the United States and Canada interact with MEDA’s mission through an increasingly diverse lineup of year-round events utilizing local leadership.
Katie West: Let’s start with something easy. What is GROW?
Karen Walsh: GROW is a food security program that is looking at changing the lives of over 20,000 women and their families. The goal is to provide consistent access to food throughout the year – in every season.
Just like Captain Kirk, we are on a journey of discovery.
Individuals, communities, cities, countries, businesses and organizations are heading into uncharted territory - making brave and unique decisions to combat global environmental challenges.
Sometimes, you don’t have to recreate the wheel.
At MEDA, we do our best to partner with already functioning entities and systems. Why start from scratch when you don’t have to?Our Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (SSBVC) project in Tanzania is one such example. Before we began working in Tanzania, we saw the potential of existing lead firms and decided to support and strengthen the business systems that were already in place and demonstrating how they could improve supply chains.
Working as an intern at MEDA was an exciting opportunity; I eagerly anticipated applying the theory I had learned in class to a professional organization that provides business solutions to poverty as Gender Programming Coordinator.
At the University of Waterloo, I learned the theory behind social development through courses in psychology, sociology and social work. These are relevant to MEDA’s work in gender development and equality because they teach students how to empower and advocate for the rights of those who cannot advocate for themselves. I learned to analyze and reflect on various social issues that people are currently experiencing around the world from an interdisciplinary and innovative perspective, just as MEDA does.
MEDA is solution-focused, working to provide business solutions to poverty through training, entrepreneurship and investment. MEDA provides agency by partnering with people as they seek to change their circumstances through entrepreneurship. As an intern, I had a front-row seat to the effective work of MEDA. I watched as MEDA staff prioritized individuals and communities. I watched as they implemented projects that benefited everyone – including women and youth.
Promoting gender equality through economic development is an important factor when helping individuals and families escape from poverty as it benefits everyone. When women are treated as equals, our world changes. That’s why it is important to include gender equality in all aspects – political, economical and social.
Ghana has emerged as one of Africa’s economic success stories, with steady economic growth in its agriculture and mining sectors.
Ghana and Canada have had a long and prosperous relationship, with Ghana being one of the first nations in Africa to establish diplomatic ties with Canada.
On July 8, 2017, MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana was pleased to welcome the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Development and La Francophonie to view GROW and share information on the challenges faced by women and girls in remote northern areas of the country.
A social enterprise is an organization with two primary and interlinked goals: to generate revenue, and to achieve positive social or environmental outcomes. In attempting to balance profit generation with social goals, a social enterprise straddles the private and volunteer sectors.1
A small but dynamic group discussed the secrets to success in business at MEDA's Professional Panel: Business Insight from Local Leaders event May 24 in Waterloo, ON at Conrad Grebel University College.
An estimated 20 students, panelists, MEDA staff, MEDA Waterloo chapter members, and other young professionals discussed a wide range of topics, from the need to be passionate about what you’re doing, work/life balance, and the importance of philanthropy, to time management.
The small clinic in Katesh, Manyara is full of young mothers bedecked in brightly colored kitenges. While some have small children, all are here to learn more about Vitamin A fortified oil, a product that improves eyesight and strengthens immunity. At the front of the room, clinic staff emphatically describe Vitamin A's health benefits, occasionally asking the audience questions to ensure the message is being heard. I remember to take the clinic's GPS coordinates. They will be helpful when I conduct a spatial analysis of all the retail shops and BCC activities in the area.
Behold the scene that unfolded before my eyes in Katesh, Manyara, one of MASAVA's two target regions in Tanzania. My visit to Katesh was part of a larger project to measure the effectiveness of behavioral change campaigns ("BCC") on oil sales. Previous research had showed that BCC campaigns were successful in raising greater awareness about the presence of Vitamin A fortified oil in the market. However, raising awareness about a product is one thing. The question that sparked my curiosity was if greater awareness inspired consumers to buy oil. I was in Katesh to interview attendees and find out.My findings were encouraging. Nearly all participants–young, old, man, woman—said they would buy Vitamin A fortified sunflower oil despite the higher cost.
ESG investing is when one uses environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria during the portfolio construction and/or analysis processes. ESG investing came out of the field of socially responsible investing (SRI).
Arguably, SRI can be used as an umbrella term for many buzz terms: ESG investing, impact investing, ethical investing, values based investing, green investing, among others. The important similarity is they approach investing through some form of environmental, social, or corporate governance perspective.