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International development

Mobilizing research to benefit micro-enterprises: An innovative and successful collaboration with the SEED network

March 2, 2021

The growth of micro-enterprises constitutes a key opportunity for job creation and local economic development. This is why Développement international Desjardins (DID) has been working closely with the SEED (Scaling Entrepreneurship for Economic Development) network since 2018. The SEED network brings together researchers and entrepreneurship support program promoters. Its mission is to mobilize research for the benefit of micro-enterprise development, both nationally and internationally.

Within this partnership, DID supports the growth and economic empowerment of micro-entrepreneurs alongside HEC Montréal's IDEOS Hub, several local partners and international financing agencies, and research teams associated with 3 universities: University of Alberta, Penn State University and IESE Business School.

By reinforcing our experimentation and impact measurement capacities, this research partnership led to the introduction of various innovative, rigorously targeted interventions that have demonstrated their effectiveness on target client segments.

Sri Lanka: Innovation as a key to development

In 2018, an initial collaboration enabled DID to use the expertise of the IDEOS Hub to support an entrepreneurial development project conducted in Sri Lanka in collaboration with the SANASA local cooperative financial network. A pilot evaluation involving 500 micro-entrepreneurs helped IDEOS identify resistance to change and poor innovation potential as the main obstacles to the development of their businesses. This led to the creation of an effective and targeted innovation training program for SANASA. Overall, more than 8,000 agricultural micro-enterprises benefited from training provided by SANASA, far exceeding the initial target of 5,000.

Haiti: Understanding and optimizing the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Drawing on this successful experience, DID extended the partnership by joining the consortium for a research project in Haiti. This project resulted in a mapping of the Haitian entrepreneurial ecosystem, which has sparked considerable interest and will help to better align the various entrepreneurial development programs that exist in the country.

Tunisia: Boosting the leadership skills of female entrepreneurs

Our third collaboration with the SEED network took place in Tunisia. This has enabled DID, together with IDEOS and the Entrepreneur Financial Centre in Tunisia, to enhance the skills of Tunisian female entrepreneurs with respect to growth, innovation, resilience and leadership. Through its research, IDEOS first highlighted the main barriers to the development of women's entrepreneurial leadership in Tunisia, namely the lack of networking opportunities as well as the challenge of maintaining a work-family balance. In response to this observation, DID and its partners successfully created and launched 2 training programs specifically designed to help female entrepreneurs overcome these barriers.

A future full of possibilities

SEED shows that the joint efforts of local and international cross-sectoral partners for the development of micro-enterprises are bearing fruit. Together, we can contribute to a better understanding of the challenges micro-entrepreneurs face, learn from them and share knowledge to support them concretely and effectively in their growth efforts. New collaborative projects are planned for the short and medium term, including one that will be launched shortly in Colombia with our partner Finanfuturo.

All projects mentioned in this article have received financial support from Global Affairs Canada.