Q&A: Volunteering with Grow Movement
Claire Jenkins, CEO of Grow Movement, explains how volunteering via Skype can improve business practice in Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi.
Can you tell me a little about Grow Movement, and how it started?
Grow Movement is a charity registered in England and Wales that offers an interesting and impactful volunteering experience to business professionals. We offer six months of pro bono consultancy via Skype and mobile to micro entrepreneurs in Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi. The aim is to lift people out of poverty by creating employment through improving business performance. We believe in the power of the private sector to be engines of growth.
The Grow Founder Chris Coughlan had spent time as an election monitor for the European Union in Rwanda and Congo. He was struck by the amount of talented youth that were unemployed because of a lack of opportunities. He was also amazed by the number of farmers in rural locations getting text message advice on crop prices. The brain wave came one day when running through Regents Park: if you can do farming advice via text, can you do business advice via Skype? One phone call to the British Embassy in Uganda, and our first trial with 10 clients in 2009 started! We still work with Enterprise Uganda today.
What's the general profile of volunteers, and how do they contribute?
Grow Movement volunteers are an exceptional bunch: accomplished in their corporate careers or as entrepreneurs with a curiosity and passion for the world and learning. The average age of our volunteers is 38 and interestingly 72% of our volunteers are male. Our volunteers come from over 61 countries with the bulk residing in the UK, North America and India. Our volunteers contribute their skills and experience in marketing, finance and strategy which improves business performance increasing sales and profits and creating employment.
Each volunteer commits to a minimum of 40 hours divided into 12 one-hour sessions and two hours of preparation, research and administration for each session. The work is to be delivered between June and December 2015 and progress updates are delivered to Grow throughout this time. The volunteer needs access to Skype as well as be willing to pay for the cost of calls to a mobile when no internet is available. The role requires patience, determination and flexibility with timings for the calls.
What help can finance professionals be?
Finance skills are in huge demand by our clients. Many of our clients lack basic skills in recording their costs, what margin to add to their product and how to price. Simple teaching in financial discipline can take a business from making a loss to being profitable and creating employment.
What are the benefits of volunteering your finance skills?
Volunteers can gain practical experience of putting planning, budgeting and cash flow monitoring into action in a challenging small business environment. They help improve their client's businesses by using skills such as profitability and margin analysis. Another great benefit is being part of a project that is spreading the importance and benefits of sound accounting practice in the developing small business community.
What do you see in the future for Grow Movement, in five or even 10 years?
There are 50 Developing Countries in the world, inhabited by 950 million people with estimates of the number of micro entrepreneurs at three million. Fifty per cent of the population also happens to be living on less than $2 a day. It's a big problem. When you consider that Grow currently operates in three countries, has worked with 500 entrepreneurs and has impacted 30,000 people, the answer to our future is simple: We have a lot more work to do to make a fundamental impact on poverty. Within the next five years Grow aims to be working with 2,000 entrepreneurs a year and within the next 10 years we aim to be in all English speaking Developing Countries with arms in French, and Portuguese speaking nations.
Why are you recruiting now?
Grow Movement is currently recruiting for a prestigious academic paper with London Business School, Booth School of Business Chicago and Stanford. Grow Movement will work with 600 micro entrepreneurs in Uganda who will have key social and economic indicators measured to finally determine if pro bono virtual consultancy has an impact on job creation and lifting people out of poverty. We are currently recruiting volunteer business consultants to be part of this impact evaluation. Recruitment has started and we will close recruitment in June 2015 ready to start in July. We are currently also looking for new volunteers in Rwanda and Malawi.
Claire Jenkins has over 10 years of experience within blue chip companies; starting as a kiwi and organics fruit buyer for Tesco and then to BT on their senior leadership development programme Fast Track, taking on roles from business development for baby monitor and BT handsets to managing out sourced operations in India. Claire runs Grow Movement from donated office space at London Business School and focuses on fund raising, strategic development, volunteering and donor management.