Business Brigade volunteers work to provide financial literacy, micro-enterprise counseling, and promote community-based credit and savings cooperatives. A Brigade consists of working, on a household and individual level, to conduct workshops on financial literacy topics and small business development consulting. Volunteers work in small groups to get to know their clients and address the financial and/or business needs and challenges of the client. Business Brigades are designed for volunteers of all backgrounds to be able to fully engage and contribute in the implementation of economic development.
Volunteers serve as economic development catalysts by investing into the community credit and savings cooperatives. The investment is turned into seed capital for loans or is used to match savings accounts of those participating in the financial literacy workshops.
Working side-by-side with community members affords volunteers the opportunity for cultural exchange, micro-finance, and consulting experience. Clients benefit by learning personal financial management techniques and business skills, while gaining access to credit and savings opportunities. Between brigades our in-country team maintains relationships with the community bank to provide follow-up and measure outcomes.
Global Business Brigade Officers 2012-2013
What Does a Business Brigade Do?
A one week Business Brigade provides volunteers with the opportunity to make a tangible impact on communities while gaining real life experience in business consulting and microfinance. Prior to travel, chapters are briefed on the community & its needs. Once in Panama, the first days are spent receiving microenterprise-consulting training and meeting with community leaders to better understand the culture and community. The brigade is then split into groups of 5-6 students. Groups will meet with potential borrowers to achieve a deeper understanding of their entrepreneurial interests or current business processes, conduct SWOT analysis, and deliver empowering financial workshops. At the end of the brigade, the volunteers recommend which investments should be capitalized through the allocation of their community investment fund ($100 per volunteer), which will be used to back loans or to strengthen the community bank.
Panama is the current focus of Business Brigades, where more than 1,800 student volunteers and business professionals travel annually to consult under resourced microenterprises since 2007. Loan applicants are selected through a comprehensive application process with the community bank to ensure need for business consulting and a feasible business plan for their loan.
Important Statistics about our Microenterprise Partners: