Practical Bravery: DIANNE CALVI

 

EMPOWERED ENTERPRISE!

In this episode, we navigate the journey of a visionary whose leadership has not just built businesses but has transformed lives.

An architect of opportunity, whose blueprint for change is reshaping the landscape of social mobility.

From the foundations of financial literacy to the pillars of small business support, her mission is to elevate the underprivileged, to turn the tide of poverty through the power of enterprise. By advocating for a model that combines training, seed capital, and ongoing mentoring, she’s not just changing the game; she’s setting a new standard for how we approach development aid. Her vision is clear – a world where business serves as a vehicle for social mobility, where every entrepreneur, no matter their starting point, has a chance to thrive.

Joining The Possibility Club is a leader in lifting lives through enterprise, and perhaps, a guiding light for future generations of social entrepreneurs – CEO of Village Enterprise, Dianne Calvi

Key quotes:

“When I was child my dad told me stories about his own childhood. His mum was a single mother who struggled to just put food on the table, they were migrant workers during the summer, they would pick fruit, live in a tent, often go hungry. His life was so foreign to me. I realised that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people like my dad.”

“When I got the opportunity to take on this role, it brought together so many things I was looking for. To take what I’d learned in organisations like Microsoft and apply it to the non-profit sector. To try to build an organisation that had significant impact.”

 “If you want to solve a big problem, you have to change policies in the way governments operate. One of the ways you can do that is building a solid base of evidence for an approach.”

 “We see real transformative change, not only in the women we work with but in the lives of everyone in their families. It really is an incredible change that happens in a relatively short period of time.”

 “We see a whole new local economy grow out of this work.”

“We’re working in the very rural areas, so still today most of the businesses that we start are agriculture businesses. In many cases people transition from subsistance farming to planting crops that generate income, and generating much more income off the land because of this re-orientation.”

“We’re not providing them with a loan, we’re providing them with a cash grant.”

“When we go into a new community we target those in extreme poverty and we work with every single household that qualifies. So we’re not just cherrypicking entrepreneurs, we’re really working with the entire village. In many cases 85% of the households in an area.”

“We create businesses for the first time but they need customers, so Mercy Corps is providing the incentives and in some cases training for the private sector actors to work together with our entrepreneurs.”

“We’ve done two randomised control trials. It’s the only way you can prove attribution to a program. And we’ve found we can quantify them. We now have evidence that people’s wellbeing is increasing, their mental health, their sense of agency is increasing, and this has all been measured by a randomised control trial, so there are questions you can ask that help quantify that that is happening.”

 “For every dollar invested in the Village Enterprise program, five dollars of income are generated. So now governments are interested in adopting this, because they see that that will create economic growth.”

This episode was recorded in October 2023

Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible

Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts

 

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