Strategic, Full Circle Empowerment For Self-Sufficiency: Addressing Total Beneficiary Empowerment Needs

Strategic, Full Circle Empowerment For Self-Sufficiency: Addressing Total Beneficiary Empowerment Needs

Sierra Leone
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

I would like to bring to the world a multi-dimensional, full-circle and complete system of empowerment for people in the developing world. This package effectively caters for their growth and development needs, moving them from poverty to self-sufficiency. This system addresses the root problem of poverty and lack of economic empowerment by engaging beneficiaries on multiple levels. It empowers beneficiaries in 4 important and complementary ways – by providing vocational training, business training, microfinance funds / tool kits and mentoring / follow up. Together, these elements optimize the chances that the beneficiary will move from poverty to self-sufficiency, independence and empowerment - and ultimately to expand, provide employment and contribute to national development.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The community is located in over-populated, resource-overwhelmed, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Freetown was partly overrun by rebels during a civil war that lasted for several years. Since the start of the war there has been a massive influx of people from the provinces. The population of the city has grown tremendously – now estimated to be over 1.2 million. This large influx has resulted in the growth of slums and squatters. The social facilities provided by the government such as water, electricity are severely adequate. Unemployment is rampant. It has a more than significant reliance on aid and donors to ensure a reasonable existence for Sierra Leoneans. UNICEF describes poverty in Sierra Leone as being pervasive. The democratically elected government and development agencies are making significant strides to alleviate the situation, but there is still much work to be done. Develop Africa is working closely and has a strong partnership relationships with 2 non-profit organizations – Door of Hope and Advocacy Initiative for Development. Together, we are actively supporting the community in the areas included in this initiative and also in education support to the school in the forms of book, teaching and school supplies, scholarships and recently, a computer lab. The partnership relationships and feedback from beneficiaries were important keys in the forming of this initiative as beneficiaries requested a more complete system to fully cater for their needs. This led to the conception of this idea which is now being implemented.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

This initiative is a new contribution to the field because if provides complete support from business and vocational training to finances to on-going follow up / coaching. The beneficiaries are much more likely to success because they are receiving a complete package of support, strategically targeted at empowering them and ensuring their success. This initiative is unique because it combines the best of four worlds / projects to create a strategic and comprehensive package. This distinguishes it from other projects that simply focus on one area or the other. It singularly addresses and caters for gaps in the current model of project implementation where needs are met in isolation, without focusing on providing a holistic solution that will empower the beneficiaries. The traditional implementation model of development projects does not take the beneficiary all the way through from start to success. The focus is usually on one or two specific areas – such as skills training or microfinance. This approach does not cater for situations where someone may need help in more than one area. Because the project help or support that is provided is segmented, the beneficiaries are often not adequately prepared or empowered to become self-sufficient and to run their own businesses. The potential impact of this comprehensive initiative is huge and can be applied to any environment world-wide. It is relevant to the competition theme as it focuses on poverty alleviation and empowerment.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The primary activities of the project are as follows: 1. Vocational or Skills training: Training opportunities include soap-making, tailoring, gara tie-dye, computer proficiency, tailoring hairdressing, etc. 2. Business Training. Many microfinance business beneficiaries do not have the skills to manage and grow their businesses. Training covers the basics of small business management, book keeping and location-relevant relevant entrepreneurial skills. It also addresses the top reasons why local businesses fail or do not grow. Key success mindsets relative to the culture are discussed. 3. Microfinance / Tool Kits: Thousands of youths and young adults graduate from training programs but are not gainfully employed or able to start their own businesses. This activity bridges this gap by providing them with interest-free microfinance loans or vocational tool kits (complete, practical package of what they would need to start their own business). This support provides the much-needed “booster-shot” enabling them to launch out and attain independence. 4. Mentoring and Follow up: Our approach involves additional, individual mentoring / coaching, site visits, group follow up sessions and post-training support. This is designed to ensure a higher success rate - rather than simply leaving the businesses to fend / survive on their own. At the group sessions, beneficiaries are able to share lesson learned and ask questions. These sessions have been beneficial particularly for trainees who are just starting.
About You
Develop Africa, Inc.
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Develop Africa, Inc.

Organization Country

, TN, Washington County

Country where this project is creating social impact

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How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Sylvester was born and grew up primarily in Sierra Leone, and has had the opportunity to travel widely in Africa and also world-wide. He had the opportunity to come to the USA for further studies and also to reside in America. During a vacation trip to Sierra Leone, he was struck by the desperate economic and education situation in Sierra Leone. He then decided that he would do his part to help make a difference. This led to the birthing of Develop Africa.

After Develop Africa was formed, the organization focused initially on education-related projects providing support in the form of books, school supplies and scholarships. The parents and the children continue to be very appreciative of the support we provide to them. We realized however that they came back each year asking for a renewal of their scholarship and that their economic conditions remained the same. Their complete needs were not being met. They came back asking for a diversification of support. They were not being empowered.

We realized that needed to come up with a more comprehensive approach that would address, not just one “symptom” but effectively target the root cause - which is poverty and a lack of economic power. This led to the birthing of this holistic initiative. Our need-driven goal of this initiative is to migrate beneficiaries from a dependence-relationship to one of empowerment and independence.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

The initiative has been successful as it has provided a complete support system that addresses all relevant needs. This has been a key factor in its success. Some of these comments can be reviewed in the videos. This success for each activity area is indicated below:

Vocational or Skills training:
We have seen a 95% graduation rate from the vocational skills training. About 5% have dropped out of the program due to personal /family reason. Over 60% of the computer training beneficiaries obtained a job within 6 months of completion of the training. In each area the trainees have excelled in learning and application of the skills training.

Business Training:
The beneficiaries have been very successful in applying the skills learned. This has helped transform and grow their businesses. Over 85% of the trainees have seen a growth of their business within 1 year of completion. The feedback received from the beneficiaries indicates directly that their business processes have been changed as a result of the training. The feedback from the training evaluation form was been very positive.

Microfinance / Tool Kits:
The interest-free loan repayment rate currently stands at 90%. In some instances, the beneficiaries have asked for additional time to repay. The testimonials from the beneficiaries clearly indicate that they would not have been able to obtain a loan without our intervention. Additionally, the loan has helped each of them grow their businesses. The tool kits as well has helped them start their own businesses – without which they would either be unemployed or working for someone else.

Mentoring and Follow up:
Positive and complementary informal feedback and comments from participants indicates that the follow up component has been a key factor in the initiative’s overall success.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Over the upcoming years we intend to continuously improve by receiving feedback from beneficiaries and learning from the best practices of other organizations worldwide. In the past year, we launched the smaller segment of the initiative in Bo, a rural town in Sierra Leone (where the needs are even greater), in the Ivory Coast, and in the Gambia. We are planning to further expand in these sectors.

Together with other partners, we will engage stakeholders in networking and business training to disseminate information and provide learning from project implementation. Lessons learned will be shared with the community and disseminated through a special website promoting microfinance. The website will share the successes and lessons learned for the benefit of all - globally.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Adequate funding is the major barrier to the success and growth of this project. We plan to overcome this barrier by seeking additional funding (such as this project application), through grants and through social media fund raising. Last year we received a grant from Chase Community Giving that helped us grow and extend our impact. We also plan to ask successful graduates of the program to “give back” and help support new beneficiaries.

The future success of the project is also measured by the success of the beneficiaries. With this in mind we plan to improve continually the level of support that we provide to beneficiaries in the form of a lengthier initial business training session, additional weekend sessions – possibly twice a year etc. We plan to continually address the knowledge barrier by working closely with beneficiaries and staying abreast of their needs.

Tell us about your partnerships

We are privileged to work with several partners in Sierra Leone and internationally. Locally, we work principally with Advocacy Initiative for Development and with Door of Hope. These partners have a strong base in the local community and are actively meeting real needs. The relationship has been very successful as each partner brings to the table their individual strengths and we are able to work together for the common good of the community. The feedback we have received from them has helped us to improve and broaden our service offerings.

Internationally, Develop Africa is a partner with the following organizations which help primarily in the areas resource development, information sharing, research and fund raising. UniversalGiving (, GlobalGiving (, SeeYourImpact ( and AidMatrix (

Explain your selections

We receive support from a wide range of sources – primarily individuals, NGOs, businesses and Foundations. We have not yet received any support from regional or national governments. Our focus has been obtaining support from individuals, businesses and organizations.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We plan to strengthen this project over the years by sharing our initiative through a special website and inviting feedback from the local and global community. We also are planning to develop partnerships with other organizations involved in skills training and microfinance.

Future plans also involve volunteer exchange programs where volunteers will be able to pass on business skills and become involved in our on-going mentoring. A business school partnership program is also being planned.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.



Inadequate transparency


Lack of access to information and networks

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

This innovation implements a strategic and efficient system that holistically addresses the complete needs of beneficiaries. Other systems provide partial support, whereas this system uniquely looks at the whole picture removing barriers and providing more information.

Because of its holistic nature, it is a more efficient approach to beneficiary empowerment as compared to traditional project implementation. The initiative also focuses on sharing information and being more transparent - both on the level of the beneficiary and also globally for the benefit of the entire world. By encouraging sharing of lessons learned, beneficiaries learn from the mistakes and successes of others. Networking and training opportunities further expose beneficiaries to a wealth of information.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Grown geographic reach: Multi-country


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

In the past year, we launched the smaller segment of the initiative in Bo, a rural town in Sierra Leone (where the needs are even greater) and in the Gambia. We are planning in the coming years to further expand in these sectors. Together with other partners, we will engage stakeholders in networking and business training to disseminate information and provide learning from project implementation. Lessons learned will be shared with the community and disseminated through a special website promoting microfinance. The website will share the successes and lessons learned for the benefit of all - globally.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)


If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Our collaboration and relationship with other nonprofits have been very successful and helped to shape this initiative. Each partner brings to the table their individual strengths and we are able to work together for the common good of the community. Initially, we were approaching development implementation from a limited, "one project at a time” focus. The partner discussions and feedback has helped us to improve and broaden our service offerings - into a multi-dimensional, more complete, need-driven package.