BoP Business Management Training Working Group: Midyear Update

September 8, 2017

The BoP Business Management Training Working Group has been exploring best practices for teaching business management skills to entrepreneurs living at the bottom of the pyramid. Below are some of the teaching methods and curricular components that have been presented and discussed thus far.

The working group launched with a session provided by Anita Shankar, a researcher from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Genevieve Smith, a Program Manager with ICRW Advisors and President of Visionaria Network. Shankar and Smith, who co-wrote the Empowered Entrepreneur Training Handbook for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, focused their presentation on agency-based empowerment trainings. Shankar shared the impressive research she has compiled over the last two years for which she has used randomized control trials to show that agency enhancement training correlates with better health, development, and well being.   

In May, business consultant Alan Wagenberg provided a presentation on technology and non-conventional teaching tools developed to build a large business creation program funded by the Colombian government. Wagenberg’s curriculum, which teaches business management skills to low-income entrepreneurs living in remote regions, includes an app, an online train-the-trainer’s course, and social technology.  

Ana Ussier of Danone followed with a presentation on how to develop business management skills when working with a low-literacy population. Practices included short videos that teach key business skills and provide mentorship opportunities developed for Danone’s inclusive distribution program called Kiteiras, and a simple sketch of a cow used to teach small holder dairy famers how to calculate profitability. 

In July, World Vision Zimbabwe’s Agriculture and Livelihoods Technical Manager Abraham Muzulu presented the organization’s ENSURE Program, which promotes farming as a family business. Muzulu not only provided a detailed description of how ENSURE teaches record keeping and marketing, but also talked about the importance of promoting a commercial farming mindset in each of their beneficiaries.  

MIT Sloan Business School student Megan McCormick also talked about the importance of instilling entrepreneurial spirit and skills in each of the participants in the Dare to Innovate (DTI) incubator she founded in Guinea. Her unique curriculum, which provides trainings to up to 30 young people each year, is deployed through a two-year incubation process. DTI’s business management curriculum employs co-design training workshops, technology, and mentoring to teach young entrepreneurs how to launch, build and scale their enterprises.  

Future working group sessions will include a presentation of the financial management curriculum used by Pact World in their WORTH Program, trainings developed by the NGO MOVE which uses a co-creation methodology to support entrepreneurs as they develop their business models, and Johnson & Johnson’s presentation of business management trainings provided by Dharma Life.

The BoP Business Management Working Group has begun to outline their final output, which will be a practitioner’s guide for teaching business management to people living in poverty.  The guide will be comprised of two components: 

  1. TRAINING PRACTICES: Reasons for choosing one delivery mechanism over another, including considerations for tradeoffs of depth vs. reach, and/or effectiveness vs. cost, and 
  2. CURRICULUM COMPONENTS: Comprised of training building blocks, including life skills, entrepreneurship training, marketing & sales, financial literacy, and leadership and management. 

In addition, working group members requested that the guide include strategies for instilling a sustained business mindset, tools for providing a gender-sensitive approach, and lists of what not to do and why when teaching business management to a base-of-the-pyramid population. 

- Libby McDonald, MIT D-Lab