Laura Alexander, Director of Programs and of the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Special Program Support Project (SPSP) at Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA), recently visited VEGA’s Enabling Growth through Investment and Enterprise (ENGINE) program in Tanzania. Laura had the opportunity to get to know some of ENGINE’s highly skilled volunteers sent by implementing partners IESC and MEDA.
Volunteer expert Kathleen Campbell knows the potential waiting to be unlocked in small businesses around the world and the importance of strong business skills and services to generating sustainable growth. As a former executive of Ten Thousand Villages, a company that helps artisans in developing countries increase their income by creating long-term, fair trading relationships, Ms. Campbell has unique experience facilitating the sustainable growth of enterprises and value chains. Starting in October 2017, Ms. Campbell volunteered six weeks of her time with Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) on an assignment with VEGA’s Enabling Growth through Investment and Enterprise (ENGINE) program, implemented by International Executive Service Corps (IESC). The ENGINE program aims to encourage domestic and foreign investment by implementing policies that promote collaboration between the public and private sectors, equipping business for sustainable growth and increasing access to finance, especially for women and youth entrepreneurs. As part of these efforts, Ms. Campbell shared her technical and business expertise with over 60 service providers in the southern agricultural regions of Tanzania and in Zanzibar.
In November 2017, Ms. Campbell delivered a training on internal communications to 12 representatives of local business development service providers (BDSPs) in Zanzibar. The training was designed to give BDSPs the skills to communicate effectively within their organizations, explain their services to potential clients and provide communications skills training for their clients. Ms. Campbell’s training was particularly engaging with a mixture of motivational and practical exercises, enabling her to demonstrate key communications concepts while having participants engage hands-on activities such as crafting job descriptions.
One participant from the Women Seashell and Seaweed Conservation Association (WOSSCA), Mwanakhamis Ramadhan Hassan, shared her experiences and several of WOSSCA’s products. WOSSCA specializes in products made from seaweed – such as soaps, nutritional supplements, and jams – and from seashells – such as earrings and other decorative items. Ms. Hassan has participated in more than eight ENGINE trainings, noting these were the first trainings she’d been able to participate in since receiving her diploma in 2015. “The ENGINE trainings are good because their goal is to improve business,” she said.
ENGINE’s local partners in Zanzibar were full of praise for Ms. Campbell and the information they gained from participating in her trainings. Ms. Hassan noted, “We don’t know how to run organizations well. We know how to be a group, but not how to operate together. Learning how to communicate better with one another is part of this.”
Participants also spoke highly of the ENGINE program and the other volunteers who have provided training over the past year. “I’ve participated in several of the ENGINE trainings, and they have been useful,” said Job Yohana Mgalleh from the Airport Taxi SACCOS. “Another volunteer, Tricia Chirumbole, taught about having a single mission for my company. Before that training, we had many goals and everyone just did their own work. Now we’ve adopted a single mission. While we’re still continuing those other activities, we are not putting as much emphasis, instead focusing on our mission.”