Opportunity International UK are our Charity Partner this year. They serve hardworking, inspiring people in over 20 of the world’s poorest countries. They provide their clients with access to loans, savings and training – tools that empower them to work their way out of poverty.
I wanted to understand more about their work – and found a number of shared approaches that highlight how Opportunity International makes a sustainable, life-changing difference. Enabling everyone to make the most of opportunities is also fundamental to our work and that of our clients, so here’s some of the approaches that are changing behaviours and lives.
Focus on empowering
We’ve always focussed on the ‘vital many’ at The Career Innovation Company. By empowering everyone to progress their career – rather than a narrow focus on top talent – our clients benefit from an engaged, maximised and agile workforce. It’s thought-provoking to see how Opportunity International work with overlooked groups to support changes to their lives…
“The clients we work with have often had their power taken away from them. They might be refugees forced to leave their homes and jobs, or disabled people who haven’t been able to finish education. In many of the countries we work in women aren’t given the same opportunities as men. Girls’ education isn’t prioritised neither are women’s careers.
97% of our clients are women. Our programme working with rural female farmers in Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which finished at the end of 2021, saw more than 12,000 women attend workshops and training to build their self-confidence. We see that, empowered with new financial skills and confidence, women are changing their family’s lives. Read more from Philomene, one of our clients in the DRC, on how training has helped her feel empowered – “I feel confident to share my knowledge with others.””
‘Spot the opportunities’ is one of our seven career skills and we support you to ensure your employees can spot opportunities for growth and are ready to seize them. But, what if there isn’t an opportunity to seize…
“Opportunity International provides opportunities to people who might not have any, so that they can change their own lives. We give a hand up not a handout.
Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with more than 75% below the age of 30. It also has a very high youth unemployment rate. Young people struggle to find decent work and opportunities – especially in rural areas. In early 2020, we began working with a number of youth-focused partners providing services and support to rural youth. To date, we’ve trained more than 1,440 youth in entrepreneurship skills, leading to the creation of 48 group businesses, and over 1,000 youth have opened savings accounts. Where there are challenges – like youth unemployment – there are opportunities to seize and provide solutions.”
Address inequality by design
Careers are areas where there is a huge amount of inequality – it can be about who you know, how you’re judged, and the opportunities you have access to. We’ve designed our work to address those injustices. Be Bold is pioneering high-quality career coaching for all, and Career Pulse democratises the ‘secrets’ of good career management. Our Career Strategy consulting prioritises inclusion and access to opportunity.
“Opportunity International have identified where people are excluded and explicitly addressed the inequality to create change:
We plan all of our projects with inclusion at the centre. Designing our work looking at challenges like cultural barriers, limited literacy, education levels and access to technology.
By making bank branches physically accessible and investing in technology such as interactive voice response messages, we’ve built a programme in Uganda around financial inclusion for people with disabilities.
Understand client needs and challenges
Our strategy work is key to understanding your organisational needs and career culture. We take a human approach to career development, identifying what will bring positive behaviour change for the individual employee. It’s been valuable to see how Opportunity International work with local partners to ensure their work really makes a difference:
“We deliver our work through local partners, and existing financial institutions, who have a presence in, and understanding of, the communities we work with. Training is often distributed through Village Savings and Loans Groups made up of local people sharing their learning with one another.
In our agricultural programmes, we identify ‘Lead Farmers’, farmers who have successfully increased their livelihoods and improved their careers – and employ them to encourage and teach others. Local farmers are trusted more than bank staff; they know their communities and neighbours and understand the challenges other farmers face.”
Scalable accessible technology to promote independence
We want people to be able to advocate for their careers and to develop a career that maximise their strengths and meets their life needs. We use technology to ensure those opportunities are available to as many people as possible, and will fit around their working lives.
“Opportunity International’s work with digital financial services proves just how game-changing tech can be to enable entrepreneurs to grow their business, benefitting their families and communities.
Digital technology helps us reach people living in places without access to banks, with financial services, training and products to help them build and grow sustainable businesses.
Making mobile phone banking available to entrepreneurs, farmers and business owners living in rural areas makes saving a possibility for people who live too far away from banks or financial providers to ever think about opening savings accounts, or seeking support.
Teaching digital skills is more than simply learning about and using new technology. Digital tech makes life safer and easier for our clients. As Imoro, a porridge seller in Ghana learnt, after she received digital financial services training from our partners.”
It’s been fascinating to understand how Opportunity International work to ensure their funding provides sustainable opportunities to individuals and their communities. And to see this alongside the approaches that our client organisations are taking to ensure they and their employees can seize every opportunity for growth.
For more on the life-changing work of Opportunity International and to learn about their approach follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter or sign up to receive their email newsletters filled with more stories of their clients working their way out of poverty.