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How To Make Your Donation Count – Reinventing Microloans At Bridging Gaps

Written by: Janina Peter, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

“A charity dollar has one life. A social business dollar can be invested over and over again.” is a famous quote by the father of microloans, Prof. Muhammad Yunus.


As a company, there are many ways to contribute to social causes. But how do you ensure your donations create the biggest impact possible? Our answer: Microloans! Why? Easy ‒ because they can be invested over and over again, creating a ripple effect and making communities stronger economically and financially.

Empowering people to create the life they want


We believe everyone can create their future and change the world ‒ Bridging Gaps is here to help jumpstart that process.


Our story starts with Malish James, a refugee, storyteller and founder of the Afri-Youth Network in Uganda’s Bidibidi Refugee Settlement. Exploring the challenges in Bidibidi with Malish, we discovered a problem we want to solve:


While the refugees in the community receive food aid from international organizations, they struggle to afford other basic commodities, such as new clothes for their children. So rather than eat the food, they need to exchange it in order to supply other needs. Instead of having to exchange their food, we want to empower them to identify new sources of income.


Changes in international development


The international development landscape is changing, from bringing Western concepts to the Global South, to using human-centered design and understanding local needs, and acting in accordance with these. Locals across the Global South know best what they need, they know best which businesses can serve their communities. So why not provide the financial means and enable them to start their own projects?


In Bidibidi, like so many other underserved communities, there are both many business opportunities and capable entrepreneurs. What they are often lacking is access to financial markets and other financial means to get started. This is where Bridging Gaps comes in. Through our trust-based approach, we work with local non-profit partners who run Bridging Gaps entrepreneurship trainings with aspiring entrepreneurs. After completing these trainings, entrepreneurs apply for microloans through the Bridging Gaps website and get connected to private sector donors.


Avoiding debt cycles


The concept of microloans is not free from criticism. In cases where interests are high or business ideas fail, recipients may take out new loans to pay back their first one. In the long term, they are caught in debt cycles. But there are ways to avoid this.


Here is what we are doing differently: By forming community-embedded groups that apply for microloans together, we increase accountability and peer-to-peer support. However, we think that is not enough, so we have changed our model to a combination of donations and microloans. Companies donate to our platform and we pass these donations on to the local groups of entrepreneurs. Only there, the donation becomes a microloan. What does that mean? Once the first recipient is able to pay back their loan, they pass it on to the next group member, who can then start their project. This way, one loan can be used over and over again, creating a ripple effect.


How to get engaged


Are you running a local non-profit that is interested in collaborating? Let us know! Do you work for a company looking to support a good cause? Visit our website or reach out! Are you looking for ways to volunteer some of your time? Check our open positions.


Learn more or get involved at https://bridging-gaps.org


Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

 

Janina Peter, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Janina is a leader in food systems transformation, using innovation and tech for good. With Bridging Gaps, she is reinventing microloans and empowering underserved communities globally. Using her background in development economics and international studies, Janina has worked for the World Food Programme’s fundraising and advocacy app ShareTheMeal, for Thought For Food and its Food Systems Game Changers Lab, and the United Nations Food Systems Summit, among others. Her mission: Creating healthier food systems to achieve zero hunger and zero poverty through innovation.

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