|Promoting Women's Entrepreneurship Development Based on Good Practice Programmes: Some Experiences from the North to the South - Working Paper N° 9 (ILO, 2001, 107 p.)|
|4. PROGRAMMES PROMOTING MSES IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES|
Many women lack the confidence and self-esteem to even consider becoming entrepreneurs, and those who become entrepreneurs often have to fight internal and external doubt in order to succeed. Much of this doubt comes from socialization processes women experience when they are girls. For this reason, a key strategy in promoting women's entrepreneurship is to educate girls so they see microentrepreneurship as a means of earning an independent income. Targeting girls for business training and confidence building can help them to discover that small business does not have to be only about survival - they can develop the skills to make a business grow. One programme which targets girls for entrepreneurship training in the United States, Australia and New Zealand is An Income of Her Own.
4.4.1 An Income of Her Own
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An Income of Her Own is a programme administered by Independent Means, a U.S. based organization. It provides products and services for girls' financial independence, targeting girls of any income background and who are under twenty years of age. It offers a range of programmes and sells products such as books on girls' and women's entrepreneurship through an online store. The programmes offered are conferences, a national business plan competition, a summer camp and in-school and after-school programmes. All are designed to be interactive and experiential and to encourage the establishment of relationships between teens and adult entrepreneurs and mentors.
The conferences are whole-day programmes that link up women entrepreneurs and teen women for activities and discussions of issues related to entrepreneurship. Most teens enter without even basic economic literacy and leave energized and full of questions about what they can do to learn more. These questions lead many to Camp Start-Up, An Income of Her Own's skill building programme.
The camp is called a development lab by programme organizers. It is a summer camp offered at various locations around the United States where girls live together for about 12 days to learn about starting a business. It is directed at teenage women (13-18 years old) and courses include business and leadership skills. There are two levels of programmes, one for those new to the idea of starting a business and one for those returning to camp who want to move a business idea forward. The curriculum used at the camp is available to after school programmes and day camps.
The business skills curriculum offered to the start-up participants focuses on marketing, operations and finance, planning, research, networking and technology. Faculty include women business owners who provide examples from real world experience and serve as the start of the new entrepreneurs' networks. Girls learn to use the Internet to research business ideas or other future opportunities. They gain familiarity with business language and culture, and learn how to take an idea through to a business plan. Leadership skills included in the camp courses are self-confidence, effective team work, negotiation, business etiquette and stress management. All of these skills are developed through practice in group settings involving role-playing and games.
Those returning to the camp are given more individual attention. They are paired with mentors who help in designing projects meeting the participants' personal needs and interests. This can involve interviewing local businesswomen about their experiences, researching a business idea on the Internet, or talking with bankers about what sources of financing are available to support business ideas.
After camp ends, there is some follow-up support offered through two types of newsletters, a teen one which updates participants on programme activities and the achievements of participants across the country, and an adult one which keeps parents informed about activities and new learning materials. There is also a toll free phone number and online services available for help with information and ideas. An Income of Her Own offers a parent support packet which can help parents continue the work of the camp at home. The packet contains support materials and practical activity suggestions.
The programme goal is not that every participant starts a business. The aim is to help girls learn how to generate income and achieve equity while pursuing their dreams. The programme is offered throughout the United States, with chapters managed locally with support from the central office. The decentralized structure gives the programme good outreach potential, particularly for the short-term offerings like after school or in-school programmes. The cost of the summer camp can make it an exclusive event, though financial assistance is available.
The programme is for the most part supply driven. This could mean that effectiveness is low since programmes are designed for an anonymous group of girls. The more advanced camp programme is an exception as this offers individualized services. In any case, a demand driven programme for the start-up camp may not be appropriate. The camp offers basic knowledge and the girls may not have a firm idea of what they need to know beyond this. The decentralized nature of the school programmes allows them to be more directed at local needs. The effectiveness of these programmes will depend on the quality of administrators and there is no information on whether local programmes are monitored. There is no information related to numbers starting businesses and surviving, or on the levels of income earned. For this reason little can be said about impact. In any event, in a programme like this, impact will be difficult to monitor since outcomes may occur far into the future.
The camp programme is likely to be expensive and the fees charged support this. This cost could keep lower income girls from participating depending on the amount of financial assistance available. In-school and after school programmes are a better model for maintaining cost efficiency and allowing a wider range of girls to participate. The programmes appear institutionally sustainable in that the fees charged for the camp are substantial. Income is also raised through the sale of products.
The programmes offered by An Income of Her Own are not all directly replicable in developing countries. In particular, the camp assumes that girls have the time and freedom to leave home for an extended period, leaving behind responsibilities. This is unlikely to be possible in many developing country contexts, in some cases for cultural reasons related to women's and girls' restricted mobility. This is an issue for girls from all income groups. For girls from poor families, the ability to leave household responsibilities for such a long period may be impossible. The concept behind the programmes is very important in the developing country context however, so it is a programme that should be replicated in some form. More creativity may be necessary in terms of where to provide the courses and how to deliver them. If girls in their teen years are not in school, the in-school or after school programmes would not work. In each context it will have to be determined where girls are and how the skills and knowledge included in the above programmes can be delivered in that place, as well as what other skills are necessary for the participants. This could involve role-playing or theatre-based techniques in agricultural topics, around water sources, in courtyards and markets. For higher income girls, the school programmes and camps may be feasible.
In the developing country context, the involvement of parents will be key. An Income of Her Own did this through information packets and newsletters. In some regions parental involvement may have to start before the girls become involved. This will help in changing attitudes regarding the value of girls, and in educating families about the benefits of the programme for the girls. While demand for such programmes may exist among the girls, it may have to be developed amongst family members.
Lessons Learned from An Income of Her Own:
· It is important to educate girls about entrepreneurship as a career option. This should include basic business skills and personal development, including developing self-confidence and assertiveness needed to own a business.
· Programmes should be designed to be as inclusive as possible. Fees should be kept low and courses offered in targeted areas. School programmes will only work if a high proportion of girls attend school. This is more of a challenge for replication in developing country contexts.
· Families may need to be convinced of the importance of providing girls with business skills. Designing programmes for families, or a pre-programme element directed at household heads may improve family support.