Friday, June 26, 2009

Microloans need macro-mentoring

Very similar to the point I was making with C-BAM

Indeed, the nonprofit research group Innovations for Poverty Action in New Haven, Conn., published a paper in May that found that Peruvian villagers who had received microloans and had been randomly selected to receive business training performed significantly better than peers who had received loans and no financial education.

Canada and Peru are obviously two very different economies, but the point is that capital, be it microloans or big-buck Silicon Valley VC money, isn’t effective in building great businesses and fueling economic growth if there isn’t some sort of mentoring or business education to back it up.

Capital and mentoring are ying and yang, they need to work in harmony to produce a single successful business. The challenge is that while capital is relatively easy and quick to deploy in emerging markets, finding sustained, experienced, and committed mentoring on-the-ground in poor areas is very hard. People with the right knowledge and experience don’t tend to live in poverty-stricken areas. They’ve used their talents to move elsewhere in search of a better life.

In Canada, the need for mentoring is important, but less acute than in emerging markets, and C-BAM provides one easy fix. Canada is obviously a developed capitalist economy and the start-ups we’re dealing with are already staffed with highly educated and sophisticated people, so we’re starting at a huge advantage. Plus there is the benefit of being in a similar timezone as enthusiastic mentors and having ready access to technologies such as TP.

In poor rural areas, the need for mentoring is there in a big way but there is no sustainable, scalable way to provide it. I know for a fact experienced people want to help micro-enterprises and while parachuting experts in from time-to-time may be better then nothing, it isn’t a true fix.

Having spent some time bouncing around emerging markets, I can see what kind of important tool business mentoring is for development. I don’t have an answer here, maybe as internet video technology spreads farther and wider it will be easier to do C-BAM type events.

Small Business - Teaching Business Basics in the Developing World -

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