Impact of project:
Impact evaluation completed
The Instituto Consulado da Mulher (ICM) was created in 2002 to offer extracurricular activities to vulnerable women to create “happiness.” After five years, project organizers observed that most of these women did not feel entirely happy due to their low incomes. The Mulher Empreendedora program came out of that experience.
Through capacity building and consultancy based in three areas—Economic Solidarity, Popular Education, and Gender Equality—the program encourages women from socially vulnerable areas of Brazil to create their own popular enterprises to generate income.
Initially the project evaluates the community and the entrepreneurial group to understand its knowledge and abilities and cross-compares it with information regarding the kinds of businesses that would best fit in that area.
Once the business is defined, ICM begins capacity-building and consultancy services to develop a business plans and assist with business development. ICM assistance usually lasts between one to two years, during which the organization helps the new business with resource mobilization (in some cases donating part of the resources), administration, organization, rules, legal work to set up the business, and how to expand the market and increase the customer base.
When the business is up and running, the group is working in harmony, and the necessary capacities have been built, ICM initiates the emancipation process, which lasts between three and six months, during which time the group can request consultancy services.
Why this project is a Good Practice example:
The program is a good way to create job opportunities for vulnerable women, because it develops their entrepreneurial capacity and assists in the creation or improvement of businesses that generating income for these women. The experience shows that in a two-year time frame—the usual consultancy duration—the entrepreneurs have been able to double their incomes.
The program helps to improve the labor market because it “employs” a large number of women, who not only are generating income and running their own businesses, but are also passing on their knowledge to their children and their communities, thus multiplying business and entrepreneurship attitudes in the community.
Other than that, the use of Economic Solidarity concepts can improve the labor market conditions in a more positive way by promoting group work in associations and cooperatives, which end up employing more people as well as distributing revenue in a more equitable manner, and sharing the work load in a more humane way.
During the two-year time frame, the project undertook four evaluations based on the Interrupted Time Series Methodology. Organizers defined seven macro indicators—with several KPIs—to leverage and better understand consultancy outcomes. These were:
1) Measuring work organization by analyzing the business plan and financial management
2) Evaluating financial indicators through income generation and business investments
3) Analyzing work conditions through security measures and the level of business formalization
4) Observing self management through leadership development and productive articulation;
5) Measuring structure and emancipation through access to production means, innovation and market access
6) Evaluating environmental management based on environmental certifications and the 3 Rs principal—reduce, recycle, and reuse
7) Evaluating the factors affecting gender in the workplace by observing gender relationships and conflict management.
Based on these indicators, project personnel evaluate the entrepreneurs and enterprises every six months. The results are cross compared for more accurate results.
The main design issues were how to measure results and impacts by evaluating all the changes and placing a valuation on the entrepreneurs’ new economic, social, and environmental capacities and abilities. These include not only income generation, but how to develop a capacity-building methodology for entrepreneurs and enterprises that did not replicate traditional business and entrepreneurship models from which the target population of women has been excluded.
With that in mind, project designers understood that a mix of “Social Methodologies” with a few innovations would best create the necessary model. Therefore, they defined Economic Solidarity, Popular Education, and Gender Equality as the three main project pillars, and its economic component was an adaptable business oriented model—incorporating pricing, accounting, and business plans—that would fit each enterprise based on observing and analyzing its practices.
The main lessons learned from project implementation were: 1) addressing the cultural difficulties of working in a nontraditional business model (for example, fostering cooperation rather than competition) through a long and deep education process; 2) maintaining group cohesion until they could generate income. ICM worked to build capacity while simultaneously planning businesses that could start selling as soon as possible to motivate the entrepreneurs; and 3) assisting and teaching the entrepreneurs—who are without resources for basic enterprise needs—how to raise funds for machinery, raw materials, and rent until they became self-sufficient.