Village Enterprise 5th Innovation Summit a Huge Success

3rd Creek Foundation has partnered with Village Enterprise since 2013, helping fund women-owned microbusinesses in rural Western Kenya. Dianne Calvi, CEO of Village Enterprise contributed the following blog entry, reflecting on the organization's 5th Annual Innovation Summit, an event designed to identify improvements and enhance the Village Enterprise poverty alleviation model.

What do research studies, flash mobs, technology pilots, soccer games, debates, hamburgers and smart phones have in common?

They were all elements of Village Enterprise’s 5th Innovation Summit that Caroline Bernadi and I just returned from. The Innovation Summit took place in late May in Kitale, Kenya, and included almost all of our East African field staff. We also had guest appearances from former Village Enterprise employees and fellows who still have a passion for our work!

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The purpose of our unique Innovation Summits is to collaboratively design and develop new ideas and incremental innovations that improve our impact on people living in extreme poverty. The week was packed with presentations and lively discussions as well as other fun activities with our talented colleagues.  Since so many of our management staff members (Field Coordinators, Assistant Country Directors, and Uganda Country Director) started with us as business mentors, our discussions were full of very relevant real-life experiences and learning from the field.

Village Enterprise is constantly looking for new and better ways eliminate extreme poverty. We do this by either tweaking pieces of the model (e.g. using smart phone technology to provide better information to our business owners) or enhancing the model to have a double bottom line impact (e.g. providing additional conservation training and partnering with conservation partners), and we always track and make data-driven decisions on what to continue.

During the Summit, we presented and discussed over 20 different topics. Some of pilots initiated and conducted by Village Enterprise staff included: mobile money, savings with a purpose, and sustainable livelihoods. We also reviewed the results of our current USAID/Fhi360-funded youth study to understand how to modify our Village Enterprise program model to make it more effective for young people. And we had a very lively debate on whether or not Village Enterprise should provide loans to successful business owners as a follow-up to our program. (The consensus was that we should not, but that we should connect them to reputable microfinance organizations).

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“The Innovation Summit is a truly unique and magical experience that is very hard to describe: it not only reflects Village Enterprise’s commitment to continuously improve and innovate but it also fosters the incredible passion, dedication, talent and energy of Village Enterprise’s field staff, all united toward our vision of ending extreme poverty,” said Caroline.

Spending a week with our stunning colleagues in East Africa was an incredible experience….one that I will never forget.

Dianne Calvi, CEO

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Dianne Calvi, Village Enterprise Chief Executive Officer, has over twenty years of international management experience. Prior to joining VillageEnterprise, Dianne served as the President of Bring Me A Book Foundation, a literacy nonprofit with international partnerships in Hong Kong, Malawi, Mexico, and Guatemala. Previously, she worked in sales and marketing for Microsoft, Xerox, and Montedison in Milan, Italy. She has also served on several nonprofit boards. Dianne received a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from Bocconi University (Milan, IT) on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship.

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Caroline Bernadi joined the team in 2005 as a volunteer on the VillageEnterprise Impact Evaluation. She became Foundation Director in September 2008 and since then has become the Senior Director of Institutional Giving. Prior to VillageEnterprise, Caroline worked in operations in the luxury goods industry in France and was the co-founder of Maatiam, a social venture. She holds a MS in Industrial Management from Ecole des Mines in France.