Impact Investing in a nutshell
More than 1bn people are denied access to quality education which is crucial for long-term improvement in quality of life. Quality education is key to employment, sustainable income levels, personal development and participation in the community.
To date, approaches to foster education in rural areas of emerging economies have failed to be effective and sustainable in the long term. Existing initiatives are often contemplated as isolated interventions, lacking to collaborate with other stakeholders across sectors.
The public sector runs schools or vocational trainings that are community-based, but they often provide low quality education and are financially not sustained. The private sector sets up some for-profit schools mainly in urban areas, thus they are limited in reach, lack quality, do not integrate the community and primarily aim for profit. On the other hand, local initiatives and international NGO’s focus on social goals, however they usually are dependent on donations, limited in reach and lack an effective follow-up. By focusing on number of schools or libraries opened, number of teaching material shipped or number of teachers trained, they often don’t take into account how the inputs are being used and converted within the local systems. Furthermore, development interventions during the last decades have created an attitude of expectation for help in Mongolia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka rather than empowering local communities to develop their own future.
Experience from the past decades shows, that many resources and efforts have been misspent due to lack of understanding of local needs and lack of collaboration of key stakeholders. By combining existing resources, facilitating collaboration across sectors, introducing an entrepreneurial approach and empowering local people BOOKBRIDGE is able to break existing silos and create a new integrative educational landscape.
BOOKBRIDGE pioneers in linking quality education and community building in rural areas of the Global South with a sound business model, ensuring financial self-reliance in the long term. We improve job opportunities, income level and the economic development of the communities in which we engage.
In a highly participatory process, BOOKBRIDGE sets up financially sustainable learning centers in remote areas, which provide space, material and courses based on the local needs. The concept behind BOOKBRIDGE Learning Centers is based on the key learnings from existing providers across sectors.
The key to success lies in collaborating with all stakeholders and combining their strengths. In order to build long-term self-sustainable solutions, they need to be community-based, financially self-sustained and focused on the social impact. Focusing on these three key factors, BOOKBRIDGE developed a five-step process for setting up the learning centers. At any point of this process, BOOKBRIDGE is using and connecting existing resources in a new and intelligent way, creating a win-win situation for all actors involved and establishing strong local ownership.
We start with the Community Hero as key change maker in the target community. In the Capability Program, we bring together key talents from the community with the next generation of leaders from Europe. We turn them into entrepreneurs by challenging them to setup a community-based learning center as a worthwhile tangible business. We make them reflect on their lessons learnt.
The learning centers enrich the job and life chances of all members of rural communities in Asia. They offer courses taught by local for locals according to the local need. In mentoring sessions, students gain self-confidence and start taking ownerships of their own lives. In addition, they act as a central meeting point for the community as well as a platform for worthwhile projects in the community. The learning centers are financially sustained.
In order to be financially autonomous in the long-term, the learning centers are set up as social enterprises. The social enterprise model, aiming to reach breakeven within a year, is developed by local talents in collaboration with candidates from Europe. In the Capability Program, they turn into entrepreneurs and face the challenge to setup a learning center as a worthwhile tangible business from scratch.
Seed funding to set up the Learning Center is provided as a interest-free loan by three parties: BOOKBRIDGE, the local government and a local investor, who is recruited by the Head of Learning Center. The main source of revenue of the center is fee-based courses offered in addition to its free services (library, learning activities for children, some free language courses), which only require a marginal membership fee.
The implementation of the business model and the actual setup of the Learning Center are led by the local entrepreneur and accompanied by the peers of the Capability Program on site. During the first two years of operation the quality of the services is closely monitored and improved by trainings and mentorship for teachers. Furthermore, the basic curriculum (English courses, courses on career development) is expanded according to the local demand, e.g. offering courses on rice growing and local business development. The underlying principle is to build on knowledge and skills of community members, thus trainings are conducted with a peer-to-peer approach, fostering on empowerment of local staff.
After two years the learning centers are run by the local stakeholders autonomously, however they actively participate in the BOOKBRIDGE network. Having constantly improved and optimized all steps of this procedure based on his learnings during the past three years, BOOKBRIDGE offers a standardized and well-recorded process, which allows efficient replication. Most remarkably, and unlike other interventions, the replication in different environments does not carry the risk of loosing the grass-root approach, since the integration of existing solutions, the participation of key stakeholders and the ownership by the local community are inherent to the design of the process.
Our Family of BridgeBuilders connects the next generation of leaders in Europe and rural Asia. Jointly, they develop and implement new initiatives and worthwhile tangible businesses. BOOKBRIDGE and its programs serve as a platform for them to do what they really are.