Hand in Hand a ‘centre of excellence’, says review

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa is a “centre of excellence in training and transforming of Self-Help Groups”.

That’s according to an independent review published by the Abymas Development Practices Centre, a Zimbabwe-based evaluation agency, and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)/the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi.

The review comes off the back of a two-year, SEK 20 million (US$ 2.3 million) program in Kenya, which concluded in March and aimed to achieve three broad objectives:

  • To provide business training and marketing support to rural entrepreneurs, resulting in 14,000 jobs.
  • To provide Self-Help Group members with access to microfinance.
  • To promote green jobs and environmental resilience in partnership with the Government of Kenya’s Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP).

Here’s what it found.

Business training and enterprise development

The effect of the project in reducing the number of people living below Ksh 3,000 (US $30) has been phenomenal,” concludes the review.

The result was achieved as members moved from subsistence farming into different agricultural value chains such as dairy, while others moved into retail, services, arts and crafts and more.

Retail and services were the two most lucrative types of enterprise, resulting in average monthly sales of Ksh 21,754 (US $217) and Ksh 19,156 (US $191) respectively.

The Hand in Hand Eastern Africa model of enterprise development and job creation is unique”, the report concludes, “in that it creates a strong foundation for target groups to immediately use knowledge and skills gained to identify enterprise opportunities with the reach of individual entrepreneurs before even receiving external financing.”

By the numbers

food infographic

67% of members were engaged farming at the outset of the project. Two years later, that number was down to 48%


At the same time, the proportion of members working in retail and services rose from 7% to 23%


56% of members earned less than Ksh 3,000 (US $30) per month at the outset of the project. By the time it concluded, that number had decreased to only 15%

info white families lifted w 272

At the same time, the proportion of members earning Ksh 10,000 (US $100) or more per month jumped from 9% to 27%

Gender, social inclusion and culture


Hand in Hand contributed “significantly to reducing gender inequality in the social and economic life of rural communities in all the targeted geographical areas,” says the report.

Before the project, “most women met during field work pointed out that their life was miserable and hopeless… as they were just working on isolated home activities for survival.” Today, “women have shown confidence in every possible sector,” resulting in “great household resilience, which changes the employment and income dynamics within the household within a very short time.”

Men’s attitudes also changed, “becoming more supportive of women’s participation in SHG activities and viewing women as equal partners in the decision-making process.”

Environmental resilience and green business

Members were “instrumental in championing key environmental initiatives within their households and communities” despite facing “several challenges”, said the report.

Barriers to success included entrenched attitudes and the cost of environmentally friendly technologies. But initiatives including “tree nurseries… stoves for energy saving, waste recycled products in peri-urban areas, water management and conservation, improved sanitation and use of organic manure” proved popular nonetheless, helping members build resilient, sustainable enterprises.

More intensive training and deeper linkages with similar projects were recommended to improve the program.

Access to microfinance

Hundreds of members borrowed microloans from Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s Enterprise Incubation Fund (EIF) to help grow their businesses. So far, so good.

At the end of the lending cycle, however, relatively few showed interest in climbing the finance ladder to receive higher interest loans from bigger, more formal lenders – one of the fund’s chief goals. That could spell trouble when the project concludes.

The report suggests two possible solutions.

  • Work more closely with microfinance institutions and government agencies to ease members’ climb up the microfinance ladder.
  • Provide two distinct types of loans: one for start-ups, another for businesses able to demonstrate market-driven growth. “This will ensure those entrepreneurs that are not growing are churned out at a pre-determined exit point within the loan cycle. At that point they will have acquired entrepreneurship skills, knowledge and experience and will have developed strong mutual support systems (internal savings) that can propel them into the future,” says the report.

Percy Barnevik on The Social Enterprise Podcast

Hand in Hand Co-founder and Honorary Chair Percy Barnevik appeared recently on The Social Enterprise Podcast, presented by Rupert Scofield, president of Microfinancial Institution FINCA and author of ‘The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook’.

Here’s a description from the Social Enterprise Podcast website:

“On this special episode of the Social Enterprise Podcast, Rupert is joined by businessman and philanthropist Percy Barnevik. After a successful career in business – chairing companies including ABB, Sandvik, Skanska, Investor AB, and AstraZeneca – Percy founded non-profit organisation Hand in Hand International, inspired to help street children in India. Having worked in 14 countries, the organisation provides grassroots entrepreneurs in some of the poorest places in the world with the skills to start their own businesses. Percy reveals his motivations, some of the challenges, and how business informed his approach to charity.”

Listen to the podcast here

Hand in Hand International visits Rwanda

Hand in Hand International Head of Media Ann Dickinson is in Rwanda this week visiting some old friends: the same entrepreneurs she met on a visit to the country two years ago. Aloys (pictured), a barber from Eastern Province, is among them.

We’ll be updating their stories soon. Meantime, Ann’s been blogging about her travels for the Huffington Post. Click the links below to follow along.

Hand in Hand teams up with the IKEA Foundation on youth, climate change

Hand in Hand and the IKEA Foundation are teaming up to help thousands of women and young people in rural Kenya work towards a brighter, more environmentally friendly future.

Launched in April with a US $3.6 million grant from the IKEA Foundation, the project will help 43,200 impoverished mothers and young people in Kenya thrive as eco-entrepreneurs, even while inspiring 4,800 future business leaders at Entrepreneurship Clubs in schools. For thousands of children, the results will be transformative: full stomachs, inquiring minds and a world full of potential.

The grant is among the IKEA Foundation’s first after it announced last year it would dedicate €1 billion (US $1.14 billion) to fighting climate change.

“We believe children have better futures when their families earn sustainable incomes, which is why we are supporting Hand in Hand with a US $3.6 million grant,” said Jonathan Spampinato, Head of Communications at IKEA Foundation. “Our partnership with Hand in Hand will help thousands of women and young people in Kenya create jobs and small businesses that can stand up to climate change. We are really excited to launch this partnership and begin our work together!”

                           ikea foundation logo 2                hand in hand_logo_international ikea story

Standing up to climate change

Look at poverty differently and you’ll see entrepreneurs, full of energy and ideas. Hand in Hand’s helps harness their potential. They find a way up and out of poverty, boosted by our comprehensive job creation model.

Savings groups and business training in areas such as bookkeeping and marketing aren’t rare. Nor, for that matter, is microfinance. But where other organizations focus on one or two of these elements, Hand in Hand combines all three – then adds a fourth by connecting entrepreneurs to larger markets and value chains.

Our partnership with the IKEA Foundation goes one step further, adding another crucial element: resilience to climate change. That means creating thousands of self-sustaining green businesses in areas like water purification, charcoal briquette production and upcycling. It also means training thousands more agricultural entrepreneurs to farm organically, and to use techniques including crop diversification, irrigation, planting trees to reduce soil erosion and more.

“Impoverished rural communities are on the front lines of climate change,” said Hand in Hand Eastern Africa CEO Pauline Ngari. “Now more than ever, adaptation and mitigation are absolutely crucial. We thank the IKEA Foundation for playing their part, and enabling us to play ours.”

Entrepreneurship Clubs

ikea entrepreneurship club

Students in the Entrepreneurship Club at Wangu Primary School, Nairobi.

Empowering mothers to work their way out of poverty is a prerequisite to achieving the first Sustainable Development Goal, to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’. But it raises an important question: if our members received entrepreneurship education earlier in life, would they be struggling as much to begin with?

Thanks to Hand in Hand’s Entrepreneurship Clubs, we’ll soon find out. The after-school clubs teach students aged 10 to 16 the basics of business, culminating in income-generating group projects used to offset participants’ school fees. In a country where high school graduates vastly outnumber available jobs, and where 80 percent of unemployed people are between the ages of 15 and 34, promoting entrepreneurship at school must be part of the solution.

By the numbers


43,200 jobs created

info entrepreneurship club

4,800 students in Entrepreneurship Clubs


US $3.6 million donated by the IKEA Foundation

Hand in Hand International CEO speaks at Global Parliamentary Conference

By Jessica Schneider

Washington, DC — Hand in Hand CEO Josefine Lindänge hosted a workshop this week at the Global Parliamentary Conference, the second annual meeting of MPs from more than 100 countries held ahead of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings.

Titled ‘Educating for the right job – building human capital’, the workshop spanned subjects including different approaches to job creation, the importance of the informal sector and strategies for thinking differently about jobs growth in both the developed and developing world. It was co-hosted by Barry Gardiner MP (UK) and Olfa Soukri Cherif MP (Tunisia).

“Hand in Hand has a model that works. We need to share it as widely as possible,” said Lindänge after the conference. “Explaining our work to a room full of MPs – people in a position to make a real difference – couldn’t be more important, particularly as Hand in Hand continues to grow and search for new partners. Judging by MPs’ reactions, there’s a real appetite for our message.”

The three-day conference featured Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, and Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, as keynote speakers. Sustainable job creation and women’s empowerment – Hand in Hand’s key areas of expertise – were recurring themes.

“We need to focus on women, education and jobs,” said Kim.

Stephen O’Brien, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, agreed. “We need to make sure that aid is for the long term, and not just immediate needs…especially for women,” he said.

Hand in Hand also featured in a ‘Youth Job Creation Policy Primer’ produced by Peace Child International and conference organizers The Parliamentary Network. The primer was distributed to the conference’s 250-odd MP guests by Parliamentary Network Chair Jeremy Lefroy MP (UK).

Hand in Hand exceeds targets in Rwanda

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa is “contributing greatly to women’s economic empowerment” in Rwanda, according to a new independent report. Jobs targets in the country have also been vastly exceeded.

Published by independent evaluator DRIS, Bureau d’études et de conseil, the report lends weight to Hand in Hand’s aim, outlined in its 2013-2015 Strategic Plan, to “enter into strategic partnerships in new countries in order to scale up job creation more quickly.”

“Three years ago, we realized that partnering with local NGOs was the quickest, most effective and most sustainable way to reach our goal of creating 10 million jobs,” said Hand in Hand International CEO Josefine Lindänge. “Our experience in Rwanda will help open the door for more partnerships and further expansion in the years to come.”

Hand in Hand launched in Rwanda in 2012. Working with local partner CARE Rwanda, an NGO with years of experience mobilizing Self-Help Groups in the country, the plan was to create 80,000 jobs by March 2015. Encouraged by stronger-than-expected results, the program was extended for a year. As of September 2015 – a full seven months before the program’s conclusion – some 113,650 jobs had been created.

Factors explaining the program’s success, says the report, include “solid partnerships with local NGOs, an effective supportive supervision system, an effective monitoring system, the complementarity between [CARE] and [Hand in Hand] methodologies and an enabling project environment.”

Other key findings include:

  • “The analysis of results show that the most VSLG members were able to hire at least one person and that they are paying their employees in money (98.6%). In the Baseline Study, only 11% of VSLG members reported having hired an employee in the last 12 months.”
  • The proportion of group members hiring three, four and five employees is significantly higher (40 percent) among new members (recruited by Hand in Hand) than among previously existing members (27.7 percent).
  • Surprisingly, the second highest percentage (17.4 percent) for hiring corresponds to employing six people or more.
  • The results show that access to education (98.8 percent) and health insurance (97 percent) is significantly high among group members.
  • “Internal loans are being used for consumption and household assets, but also at a remarkable level for business development.”

Read the full report here


Businesses started: 78,780

Target: 56,000

india jobs icon

Jobs created: 113,662

Target: 80,000

Infographic: Lives improved: 544,470 Every job we help create in Southern Africa benefits an average six family members – young, old and everywhere in between

Lives improved: 393,900

Target: 280,000


Hand in Hand Afghanistan Trustee Kamila Sidiqi on PBS News

Hand in Hand Afghanistan Trustee Kamila Sidiqi – the Deputy Chief of Staff to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani – featured on PBS Newshour during a recent trip to the US. Watch the video below.

Edit: Kamila Sidiqi left the Hand in Hand Afghanistan board in December 2015.


Hand in Hand and the Primark Better Lives Foundation eliminate child labor in 99 communities

Hand in Hand and the Primark Better Lives Foundation have teamed up to eliminate child labor in 99 of India’s poorest communities.

Completed in September, the five-year program opened 170 schools and learning centers, providing more than 7,600 school places, and helped more than 9,200 women launch family-based enterprises, benefitting some 46,000 family members.

“The Primark Better Lives Foundation has been working with Hand in Hand for more than four years now, funding a program to fight poverty in the state of Tamil Nadu, India,” said foundation trustee Paul Lister. “What we most appreciate about Hand in Hand is their businesslike, entrepreneurial approach to tackling social challenges.”

Stamping out child labor has long motivated Hand in Hand’s work. In fact, our job creation model was developed as a direct response to child labor in India.

“Hand in Hand started as a small NGO struggling to eradicate child labor in Kancheepuram,” explained Hand in Hand Co-Founder Dr Kalpana Sankar. “We followed a child-centric approach, but quickly realized that broader social sensitization was the key. In October 2004, the organization shifted its focus to the community.” Put simply, when mothers work, children don’t have to.

Ten years later Hand in Hand has helped create 1.92 million jobs in 10 countries, improving the lives of 9.62 million family members – most of them children. The need for jobs is particularly acute in India, where only 29 percent of women older than 15 have paid work, even while more than 10 percent of children aged 5 to 14 are forced to work at least 14 hours a week.

“Our goal is to create 10 million jobs for some of the world’s poorest residents, helping to fight child labor in the process,” said Hand in Hand International CEO Josefine Lindänge. “Thanks to the Primark Better Lives Foundation’s generous donation, we’re one step closer to getting there.”

Celebrating entrepreneurial mothers on International Day of the Girl

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s CEO Pauline Ngari: Why we must celebrate entrepreneurial mothers on International Day of the Girl

As we support the International Day of the Girl we all know that girls are the future and that the brightness of that future depends on educating girls. But, I speak from personal experience when I say, that in order to educate the girl we must first empower the mother. I was that girl.

Passport photo of the CEO of Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, Pauline Ngari

Pauline Ngari | CEO | Hand In Hand Eastern Africa

My story

I was born into a poor farming family in central Kenya. As one of eleven siblings, I helped to manage the family household as my mother tried to make ends meet by running a village shop. The income from that shop made all the difference to our lives and my mother was able to make sure that my siblings and I went to school.

When my mother’s shop failed, life became much harder for us all. And yet that failure is exactly why I set up Hand in Hand’s operations in Kenya in 2010.

My mother had an entrepreneurial spirit but she lacked any form of business training. At Hand in Hand we provide the business training people (predominantly women) need in order to start their own business and increase the family income. Since Hand in Hand first started in India in 2003 we have generated over 1.4 million jobs and every day we see the transformative affect the resulting increased income has on people’s lives.

If you are poor then education is not your priority

If you are one of the 1.2 billion people who live on just US$ 1 per day then your priority, every day, is how to find the money to put food on the table and, if you are to survive, every member of the family must work towards that goal.

In such circumstances education is a luxury and figures from the UNESCO Institute for statistics back this up – there is a clear link between household wealth and the probability of not being in school. Compared with children from the richest 20% of households, children from the poorest 20% are four times more likely to be out of school. Crucially, although girls are always more likely to be out of school than boys, the disparity shrinks with increasing household wealth. Further we know that women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men (OECD).

The making of entrepreneurial mothers – a success story

This is why Hand in Hand’s business training model is aimed primarily at women. We have developed a system that encourages people to learn the power of group support and a shared goal; that encourages the poor to save just a little each week so they can start their own business or secure a loan; that teaches the poor how to run a small business, not in a classroom with a whiteboard, but with leaders from their own community, through parables, stories and songs.

In just ten years we have provided basic business training to over a million of the world’s poorest women who have gone on to create some 1 million small businesses.

Hannah Haciku, a tailor in Nairobi, Kenya in her sewing studio

Hannah Haciku | Tailor | Nairobi, Kenya

Hannah Hackiu (pictured left) is one of our many success stories – born into an impoverished family in central Kenya, her parents could not afford to educate her and so she was married off into another family. Now a mother herself, Hannah’s overriding ambition is to earn enough money to educate her children and ensure theirs is a different future.

With training from Hand in Hand she used her talent for sewing to set herself up in business as a tailor. Within a year, Hannah earned a monthly income of KES 5,000 (US$ 58) which she invested in changing her family’s life for the better. Now 33, Hannah says she will able to send her 13-year old daughter to secondary school, giving her the opportunity she did not have herself.

This piece originally appeared on BusinessFightsPoverty

Saving is not a luxury

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s CEO, Pauline Ngari: Why saving is the first step on the ladder out of poverty

When World Savings Day was first launched in 1924 the aim was to encourage people to put their savings in a formal bank account rather than ‘under the mattress’ so that they could manage and save their money efficiently.

Today, as we celebrate the 79th World Savings Day, half the world’s population, some 2.5 billion adults, still do not have a bank account. Most of those people live in poor, rural areas in developing countries. For instance, here in my native Kenya, just 42% of the population has a bank account – compared to 97% in the UK.

Passport photo of the CEO of Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, Pauline Ngari

Pauline Ngari | CEO | Hand In Hand Eastern Africa

Why should this matter? If you are unbanked, it is that much harder to manage your money and that means you are not saving. In the absence of insurance and formal social safety mechanisms, savings are what see families through economic hardship. As they often cannot access formal credit, savings also provide the poor seed capital to start a business or the finance to expand one.

However, if you are poor, living at the margins of society and excluded from financial institutions, can you really save? Do you have any ‘spare’ money? And if you do, can you save enough to make a difference?

We often assume the answer is ‘No’, but I speak from personal experience when I say that the answer to these questions is emphatically ‘Yes’.

I was born into a poor farming family in central Kenya. After school I helped to manage the family household as my mother tried to run a village shop. When my mother’s shop failed, life became much harder for us all.

However, that failure is exactly why I set up Hand in Hand’s operations in Kenya in 2010. My mother had an entrepreneurial spirit but she lacked any form of business training. At Hand in Hand , we have developed a business creation model to enable people to start and run their own enterprise, increase their income and climb out of poverty.

And we know it works; globally, some 1.5 million people living in poverty in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have – with our support – saved enough to set up and run over one million businesses.

First we create community groups, mainly women, who support each other, save together and learn together. Members learn to manage money – how to save as well as how to borrow and repay a loan. Here in Kenya – where the national saving rate is only half of the average for all low-income countries – we are running savings campaigns during which our members manage to save an average of 3,500 Kenyan Shillings over six months – a significant achievement when 62% of them support entire families on less than KES 5,000 per month (US$ 60).

Then we train the group members to discover and develop small businesses that make use of their skills and potential.

Next, if needed, we provide access to micro loans and finance. Such is the success of our business creation model and the support across the group that 99% of these micro loans are paid back.

Finally we help turn our members’ ideas into a larger commercial reality, take them to market and achieve sustainable growth, which in turn benefits their families and communities.

Take Philomena Nduku Mutuku, a 67 year-old shop-owner who used to earn just KES 500 (US$ 6) a week fetching water from the local well for her wealthier neighbours: “I did not go to school, but I am a fast learner: thanks to the Hand in Hand training, I can now control what I spend. So, I would estimate what I really needed every week and challenge myself to save the rest”.

Encouraged to save just a little each week, Philomena eventually had enough to invest in the necessary stock for a small shop – the only one in a 15km radius from her village.

As a direct result of saving, Philomena has moved on from carrying water to become an independent business-woman who today earns some KES 1,000 (US$ 12) a day.

And that is the power of saving.

Originally published on Pauline Ngari’s Huffington Post blog

Young Mothers Program review: ‘Success is almost guaranteed’

Young Mothers Program Creates ‘Much Better Opportunities’

“Success is almost guaranteed” to women who complete Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s Young Mothers Program, according to an independent mid-term review conducted by Brinjal, a UK-based consultancy specializing in livelihoods analysis. The study comes ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.

Happiness’ does not simply feel good, but helps (people) function better.” Happiness expert Professor Ed Diener

Launched in Kenya in 2012, the Young Mothers Program mobilizes mothers between the ages of 13 and 30 who, despite lacking skills and training, are major breadwinners in their families. The program combines Hand in Hand’s job creation model with psycho-social support – or, as it’s referred to by participants, “freeing of the mind” – from Clowns without Borders Sweden (CwB), a non-profit organization that works to “spread laughter, joy and hope” to people affected by conflict and poverty. The project is funded by the Swedish Postcode Lottery.

Halima, a young mother and business woman, holding her son

Halima | Young mother and business woman | Kawangware, Kenya

“(Young mothers) understand the benefits of mutual support. They are bright, energetic and dynamic in applying the training provided by the HiH model,” says the review. “When visiting a group that has been operating for 9-12 months it was very clear that most members have established business ventures which mean that they are no longer forced into the casual labour market on a daily basis and have a much better opportunity to plan their livelihoods and look to the future.”

The report also said CwB’s contribution “enhanced the group mobilisation process. Through a series of songs, storytelling and games the group members succeed to shake off the stress of daily life, build solidarity and concentrate fully and equally on the group task at hand.

“In fact,” it continued, “the (Business Relationship Officers) find the techniques so effective that they are being used with (community self-help) groups, not just the Young Mothers Groups.”

No comprehensive research has been done into the benefits of stress-relief in developing world self-help groups, but lots of studies are more broadly applicable. Happiness expert Professor Ed Diener of University of Illinois, for example, “finds that in general ‘happiness’ does not simply feel good, but helps (people) function better.”

The review also identified several areas for improvement. Retaining new members – forced to forego casual labour typically paying 200 Kenyan shillings (US $2.30) a day to attend the group sessions – was chief among them. Planning is underway within HiH Eastern Africa to implement the recommendations.

Young mothers program by the numbers

info-blue-job-so-far for news story

Jobs created: 1,236

Blue-Business-So-Far for news story

Businesses created: 927

info-blue-female-paid-work for news story

Mothers trained : 1,930

info-blue-children-underweight for news story

Children enrolled in school: 1,769

Hand in Hand Afghanistan expanding with grant from EU

Now is a crucial time for Afghanistan.

Already, the country is in the process of electing its first new president after 12 years under Hamid Karzai. By the end of the year, with the whole world watching, that president will oversee the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force, inheriting main responsibility for the country’s security for the first time in just as long.

Despite uncertainty over Afghanistan’s future – or indeed because of it – Hand in Hand is committed to remaining in the country. In fact, we’re expanding our reach in Afghanistan thanks to a game-changing US $1.16 million (€840 K) grant from the European Union. Launched in February 2014, the deal marks a series of milestones for Hand in Hand:

  • Our first grant from the European Union.
  • Our first time working in Samangan Province, bordering Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s most developed operation in the province of Balkh. Samangan offers relatively stable security, support from local stakeholders and, given the absence of similar programs in the region, the opportunity to make a transformative impact.

We’re also introducing a number of upgrades adapted to suit Afghan conditions:

  • Literacy and numeracy training. Countrywide, only 7 percent of rural women are literate.
  • Vocational training and toolkits for in-demand skills such as beekeeping, silkworm rearing and motorcycle repair. Farming productivity in Afghanistan has fallen by half during 30 years of near-continuous war.
  • Shari’a-friendly microfinance. Profitable lending is prohibited by Islamic law, causing most microfinance institutions to avoid Afghanistan. To help plug the gap we’re bringing our successful Enterprise Incubation Fund to the country.
Habiba weaving a carpet.

Habiba | Carpet Weaving | Kaldar District, Afghanistan

As always, the need to boost women’s economic empowerment remains urgent – particularly in a country where 60 to 80 percent of marriages are forced and violence against women is on the rise. That’s why we’re increasing our female participation rate to 70 percent –significantly higher than both the national female labor participation rate, 16 percent, and the target of 35 percent set by the Afghan government for aid programs. (We target 30 percent men as a means to build trust and, ultimately, work with women.)

Estimated results at the end of the project

Blue-Business-So-Far for news story

5,400 small businesses will have been created


8,100 sustainable jobs will have been generated


Some 56,700 family members will have benefited