From April to October 2017, we successfully piloted our newest baby with Swiss Re: Learning Partnerships – a light version of our Capability Program. What started with the idea to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses to create employment, turned into a very successful and impactful relationship between Swiss Re professionals and Mongolian entrepreneurs. 3 out of 5 entrepreneurs successfully pitched their business plan and shared their feedback and key lessons learnt.
What do the communities of our learning centres lack the most? Jobs! When the team of our 8th Capability Program worked together with entrepreneurs from Mandalgovi, Mongolia to setup a learning center, they developed the idea to help Mongolian entrepreneurs develop and grow their businesses. In a pilot with Swiss Re Foundation, we matched the skillset of 5 professionals at Swiss Re with the needs of 5 aspiring entrepreneurs from Ulaanbaatar and the Mongolian countryside.
Sharing skills and learning from each other
Following a kick off call end of March, the learning partners started to meet up virtually and get to know each other. Each learning partner defined goals what he/she would like to take out of the 6-month part-time program. From the very beginning, the focus laid on the sharing of skills and knowledge. Despite a pre-planned investor pitch to a jury at the end of the program, money was not the primary goal to join the program. The learning partners worked independently according to their own schedules and engaged in regular video calls with each other.
After three months, the learning partners met for a mid-term feedback call. In the meantime, 2 Mongolian entrepreneurs had resigned from the program as the scope and commitment needed towards the program only became apparent to them when they had had their first video calls – lessons learnt for the recruiting process. The remaining 6 learning partners shared very positive feedback on their experience. The learning partners at Swiss Re gained impressive insights into the daily life in Mongolia and developed an understanding on how to work together with counterparts from a totally different culture. The Mongolian entrepreneurs reported back that they benefitted from the business skills of their counterparts. The business ideas had advanced remarkably since the kick off and everyone was eager to work towards the pitch in October.
Pitching for investment
The moment of truth came on October 30 when all learning partners convened in a video conference to pitch their business ideas:
- Bolormaa and Christian surprised the jury with the fact that they had incorporated a learning center in the ger district of Ulaanbaatar in September. The learning center offers childcare and English courses. 10 students had already signed up and Bolormaa needed a loan of USD 1,500 to buy much-needed equipment.
- Tsetseg and Oleksandr impressed the jury with the progress Tsetseg had made in producing and exporting wooden toys produced by handicapped people in her hometown in the countryside. You could feel the dedication and drive in Tsetseg‘s introduction. The businesses needed USD 2,290 to buy professional machinery and increase production.
- Baasanbaat and Barbara presented their NGO Mongol Urkh who accompanies victims of violence in their rehabilitation. Mongol Urkh and its founder Baasanbaat have a long history in fighting for the rights of women and children in Mongolia who have been beaten. The jury acknowledged the achievements but could not make an investment decision as a business case and roadmap was missing. Baasanbaat and Barbara were invited to come back at a later stage.
Building upon key lessons learnt
We are grateful for the pilot with Swiss Re. At the beginning, we were skeptical what might result out of a pure online program without the possibility to meet each other face to face. The feedback by our learning partners and the quality of the business cases have proven the opposite. We are eager to continue and run a second program in 2018.
Our learning partners have taken away a lot invaluable personal and professional learnings from this experience. In the following videos, they share one key learning and one recommendation for improvement in the next program. From our side, we are currently working on the following improvement points for the next program run:
- Ensure physical meetings for kick off, mid-term feedback and debrief calls wherever possible
- Engage local coach who accompanies local entrepreneurs in the local language
- Offer a set of tools and milestones which learning partners can take as a blueprint to start with
- Renumerate efforts by Country Organzation and Global Support Team to separate investment from support
In the video recordings below, our learning partners share their key lessons learnt and recommend one thing they would do differently.