This post was written by guest columnist Susan Mcpherson, a sustainability and CSR expert and speaker who works at the intersection of brands and social good. Follow her on Twitter @susanmcp1.
Almost 10 years ago, I was looking for a meaningful nonprofit to support and I was led to Bpeace (Business Council for Peace). As I discovered the positive impact this organization was having communities, I lobbied to join its board.
Bpeace, founded in 2002, is a non-profit network of business professionals from all over the world. We volunteer our skills to support entrepreneurs in conflict-affected countries to help them create significant employment for all, and expand the economic power of women. Put simply, we believe that more jobs equals less violence.
Our goal is to create one million jobs across 1,000 communities in the next 10-15 years. In each community these businesspeople become role models and strong voices for peace. Facing down violence with jobs is Bpeace’s reason for being. We find entrepreneurs with momentum in growing industry sectors that can provide significant employment, and we supply ongoing pro bono consulting to accelerate their pace. The jobs these “Fast Runners” create improve the health, nutrition and education of their workers and their families, leading to stronger, more peaceful communities.
Our job creation model has a multiplier effect, in that the positions developed sustain thousands of families, boost local purchasing power, and in turn, strengthen other local businesses. This cycle of employment sets a once troubled community on the path to prosperity and peace.
A job is precious no matter where you live. But in a country affected by conflict, having a job can mean the difference between sending your child to school or seeing them recruited by gangs or the Taliban.
The countries we operate in face trouble on a regular basis. Afghanistan continues to be a challenge, but stories like our entrepreneur Zarghuna paint a different picture. Zarghuna has grown her beauty salon business from nine female employees to 65 in just three years. She is also writing Afghanistan’s first beauty book and launched a women-only fitness center. Bpeace brought Zarghuna to the U.S. to train at a top salon and helped her with financial tracking, marketing ideas and obtaining equipment.
After just two years, the Fast Runners in El Salvador have grown employment by 20%, exceptional in the entire history of Bpeace. This country, with one of the highest homicide rates in the world, is ripe for our model. Bpeace orchestrated consulting help for Claudia, owner of a call center in a growing sector, and in less than two years her business grew from 118 employees to 188, a 60% increase. The U.S. State Department has begun providing support to expand our El Salvador program after seeing our successes there.
We have expanded into Guatemala, a beautiful country whose citizens are vulnerable to gang warfare and a legacy of violence, and we’ve already seen our first success in Gaby Maldonado, a creator of pre-school education materials. Bpeace volunteers encouraged Gaby to enter a rigorous international competition, reviewed her business plan and presentation, and coached her all along the way. Gaby won $20,000 to expand her business. In 2014 and beyond, we plan to help more Guatemalans like her.
Your support can go a long way in helping these women grow their businesses using the Bpeace fundraising tool. We are blessed in the US with many resources in which to help our individual businesses grow. It’s not the same in conflict-affected regions. If you believe in this important cause and the power of business to make positive change in the world, we’d love your help. You may make any-sized contribution here.