The Hand in Hand approach sees job creation as a highly effective development tool, where micro-entrepreneurs are key drivers for economic growth and poverty reduction. The model provides support for a comprehensive approach to job creation, incorporating the following four key elements:
Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s job creation model proceeds in four stages. First, we mobilize community groups made up mostly by women who support each other, save together and learn together. Next, we train group members to develop small businesses that make the most of their skills and potential. As a third step, entrepreneurs are provided with enterprise startup toolkits. Finally, we help entrepreneurs scale up their businesses by connecting them to larger markets.
As agreed by the HiH Network, HiH Af uses the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) definition of a full-time job: one that requires at least 24 hours per week for individuals aged 18 and above.
The model provides support for a comprehensive approach to job creation, incorporating the following four key elements:
Social mobilization and formation of Self-Help Groups: Social mobilization is the starting point for all HiH Af operations, where awareness is created through outreach forums. Male/female groups are formed separately based on common demographics, social cohesion and income generation opportunities. Community Development Councils (CDCs) act as entry points to the community while mobilizing groups in order to secure local ownership and co-ordination.
Programs are destined to fail when local stakeholders are ignored. That’s why we engage community leaders, influential people and sectorial departments for feedback and to spread awareness before launching any new project. Cultural and regional sensitivities are considered during kick-off meetings with stakeholders as well as throughout our projects.
Internal savings: Savings is an integral part of the model, and a culture of group savings and lending is a prerequisite to moving forward in the program. Joint internal savings is the first step in group formation and allows members to pool regular savings.
Group management training: Members receive three training modules: introduction and approach, leadership and roles, and group bookkeeping. This training is important in order to properly manage the group, conduct group meetings and maintain group books.
Business development services (BDS) training: This step includes modules on ‘Unlocking Entrepreneurial Individual Strength’, ‘Basics of enterprise’, ‘Selection of sample enterprise’, ‘Basics of marketing (4Ps)’, ‘Effects of demand & supply on price and products’, ‘Market survey’, ‘Seasonal calendar’ and ‘Financial statements’. Many of the members are illiterate, so HiH Af trainers work using pictures, parables, activities and role-play.
Financial management including microfinance training: It is crucial for members to record their savings and loan details. This training is provided over four sessions including ‘Savings and principles of saving’, ‘Microfinance and Islamic lending’, ‘Role of microfinance in community development’ and ‘The positive experience of women’s participation in family income’.
Vocational skills training: After the BDS training is completed; members receive different types of vocational skills training to build their technical skills in areas such poultry, livestock, agriculture, horticulture, wool spinning, beekeeping, tailoring, handicraft and baking.
Access to credit and enterprise startup toolkits: In light of microcredit challenges in Afghanistan, HiH Af has introduced enterprise start-up toolkits as an alternative means to help members grow their business, circumventing the credit barrier – at least in the inception phase. The kits are small grant-based asset transfers, worth on average US$100, designed to catalyse enterprise growth. The kits provide the majority of inputs and tools required to grow a business in the sector of one’s choice, conditional upon business plans, completed vocational skills training and a complementary contribution from the individual member. The ambition is to offer kits to 100% of members. They are currently available in poultry, agriculture, livestock rearing, tailoring, beekeeping, embroidery, wool spinning, horticulture and carpet weaving sectors. HiH Af continually develops toolkits to meet local member needs.
Group savings also help finance most new businesses. But when members need more than they can borrow internally, we train them in debt management and facilitate their linkage to existing Microfinance Institutions (MFIs).
Life skills training including literacy and numeracy: In Afghanistan, and particularly in rural areas, literacy and numeracy levels are very low, potentially limiting the impact of our training. HiH Af has therefore added this training as a complementary part of our model. Life skills’ training is offered on a needs-basis to members for a period of six months.
Modules cover reading, writing and basic numeracy skills embedded in messages on about health, nutrition, personal and family hygiene and sanitation, vaccinations, drug abuse awareness, environmental protection, human rights, child protection, gender equality and possible potential enterprises.
Internal lending: Internal savings are used to make short-term loans to SHG members, allowing them to immediately put their skills into practice through savings-based borrowing used for economic activities.
Microenterprise creation/enhancement: Once capacity is built, and technical skills acquired, members will be ready to start or expand their micro-enterprises. But first, they must prepare a business plan first. As mentioned, the enterprises can be funded through the group’s internal savings and the enterprise startup toolkits.
Job creation: As a result of the formation and enhancement of enterprises, jobs are created for community members (as per the above definition from ILO).
Value addition and market linkages, and forming associations/co-operatives: HiH Af seeks to expand market opportunities by creating linkages between rural villages and districts to broader markets at the provincial and national level. Co-operatives and cluster-based business associations provide the backbone for such support, as HiH Af’s members retain more value by working together to negotiate better deals, share transportation and logistics service costs, and capture larger work contracts than they could as single individuals or SHGs.