Nepal has been in the midst of an extended political transition for nearly half a decade. Following the 1996-2006 civil war, the monarchy was abolished and then in 2008, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (the Maoists) emerged as the largest political party in the country’s first-ever elections for parliament, called the Constituent Assembly (CA). The CA’s main task was to promulgate a new constitution for Nepal, but after repeated attempts, the body failed to deliver.
Posted in South Asia
Samriddhi Foundation, a Kathmandu based think tank, ran a crowdfunding campaign from April 30 to May 30, 2013, on Indiegogo to support a research and advocacy campaign that would conduct a study on Kirana Pasals – small mom and pop shops selling groceries and fast moving consumer goods, which are typical to Nepal and few other South Asian nations. Atlas Network agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar. Watch the video that Samriddhi created for this campaign here.
People who have lived in Nepal long enough have often noticed that these small enterprises, Kirana Pasals, rarely grow to become medium or large operations, like department stores or supermarkets. The study was designed to find out what prevented the growth of these independent businesses, which are run by entrepreneurial and hardworking people, and to conduct advocacy focused on recommendations formulated on the basis of this research.
By the end of May 30, 2013, the campaign had become successful and we were able to raise the target amount of $7,500 (matched with an additional $7,500 from Atlas Network). And during the month-long period, we learned a lot about this great tool that enabled us to take another step in promoting entrepreneurship and economic development in Nepal.
The great thing about a crowdfunding campaign is the easy interaction between the supporters and the organization which allows greater transparency for the supporters to see where their money is going and who will it benefit directly. The communication process is simple and flexible and promises more accountability. However, crowdfunding is not necessarily as easy as it seems. Some of the lessons we recall from the experience are:
Yesterday I wrote about how CIPE is helping women business leaders to break down barriers in South Asia – both barriers between countries and barriers that are keeping women out of the economic mainstream. CIPE’s third networking and training session for the heads of women’s chambers of commerce and business associations, held on September 18-20 in Lahore, Pakistan, was a resounding success, including a dinner at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce that drew the Governor of Punjab as a featured speaker.
But we also wanted to take some time to focus on the training program itself, and the results of the hard work that these women are putting in to building their organizations. There is no shortage of programs in South Asia to build links among women entrepreneurs – to encourage trade and business ties – but CIPE is focused on strengthening the capacity of the chambers and associations, both so they can better represent their members in the policy process, and help their members grow their own businesses.
The biggest changes can start with small steps – particularly in the effort to change cultural barriers and to ease decades-old national tensions. Often it is the private sector, seeking to open new markets, explore possibilities, and expand trade and commerce, that is at the forefront of such changes.
Last week in Lahore, Pakistan, CIPE organized the third in its series of training and networking sessions for a group of women’s business leaders from across South Asia, helping bring about a range of positive steps – both for national understanding and opportunity for traditionally marginalized women.
This network, which CIPE has been developing with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy, includes participants from major and emerging chambers of commerce and business associations from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
The idea to bring together representatives from these countries – particularly given the tensions between India and Pakistan, and the history between Bangladesh and Pakistan, was not guaranteed to succeed. But after two meetings, one last winter in Dhaka and then again in the spring in Kathmandu, it was becoming clear that these women business leaders were growing closer, learning from one another, sharing ideas and information, and finding ways to strengthen their organizations.
Young people are pushing for systemic, democratic changes around the world through political and economic vehicles. In Cambodia last month, youth (who are frustrated with corruption of the current ruling party and the status quo) vocalized their desire for change before the national elections took place. In Sri Lanka, Youth Parliamentarians have been consulting with senior policy makers to make sure their opinions and inputs are heard. And in Jordan, young tech entrepreneurs are building a movement to reverse the controversial media censorship law through advocacy.
In this week’s Economic Reform Feature Service article, three winners from CIPE’s 2012 International Youth Essay Competition in the Social Transformation category discuss how youth entrepreneurs are helping build democratic societies. Want to make your voice heard? CIPE is accepting submissions from bloggers of all ages for our 2013 Blog Competition.
CIPE’s long time partner Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation in Nepal is seeking to better understand why so many of their independent and small businesses never grow. What is preventing these mom-and-pop shops in Nepal from engaging in the formal economy, accessing credit, and growing their operations? What barriers do these entrepreneurs face?
Samriddhi wants to document and help tell the stories about what challenges these entrepreneurs face every day. But Samriddhi needs your help first. Using crowd funding, Samriddhi partnered with the Atlas Network: for up to $7,500 that Samriddhi raises through its crowd funding campaign, the Atlas Network will match dollar-to-dollar.
There’s only 16 days left to help them out! So read about Samriddhi’s crowd funding campaign and watch their video to help understand how you can help empower Nepali entrepreneurs.
“The sessions in Dhaka and Kathmandu helped develop structure and set direction and proper governance guidance to our business associations, which usually tend to be run according to individual chairperson’s goals. Setting vision and mission based on a membership needs assessment is such a simple idea that we learned…so basic but yet hardly used as we tend to overlook membership requirements in our day to day chamber activities and operations” – Rezani Aziz, Sri Lanka
Despite severe challenges, women’s business associations are playing effective roles in promoting interests of their members. However, CIPE has observed that most women’s business associations in South Asia are struggling to perform optimally.
CIPE took this challenge as an opportunity to work with a selected group of eleven business associations in the South Asia region, aiming at strengthening institutional capacity to help them become stronger advocates for their members. In the first phase of this project, CIPE organized a two-day session for the group in Dhaka in January 2013.
The second workshop for the same group was held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 22 and 23 April. After the Dhaka session, the Peshawar Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry embarked upon an advocacy project to identify barriers to women’s entrepreneurship in the terror-affected Khyber Pakhtoon Khawa region, while the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry conducted a survey focusing on their 600 women members. These two case studies from Pakistan were presented to participants in Kathmandu.