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Microcredits: Barcelona's self-funding community of migrant women entrepreneurs

Run by the Servei Solidari Foundation since 2016, the Microcredits project strives to alleviate the social and financial vulnerability and foster the entrepreneurial ambitions of migrant women based in or around Barcelona. The initiative achieves this through the provision of microcredits, technical guidance and social support, while also creating a community.

The Servei Solidari Foundaion is also behind the successful mentoring project Rossinyol

Image: Microcredits logo ©Servei Solidari Foundation 

Project Goal

While traditionally microcredits have been most popular in developing countries, they have recently gained traction as a tool to help close socioeconomic gaps in developed countries, too. See a study on the impact of microcredits based on the experience of the project here.

Focusing on microcredits, the project provides migrant women with an alternative to bank loans that allows them to develop their business ideas securely, while also building a strong network of support.

The goal is therefore to achieve scalable, sustainable growth. For this, the project relies on a combination of solidarity groups and alternative financing platforms. The networks formed during the project allow for the long-term monitoring of business development.

How it works

Self-funded communities

The project was conceived together with the Association of Self Funded Communities (ACAF), a Spanish initiative which purveyed the creation of 'self-funded communities' (comunidades autofinanciadas, or CAF in Spanish). The methodology proves that low-income communities are capable of funding themselves, including through credit, without any external help. It has been utilised in 45 countries with more than 30 million people taking part in such self-funded communities, with organisations such as Plan, Care and Oxfam also utilising variations of the method. The Winkomun platform provides guided access to the methodology to anyone over the world. 

The Microcredits project uses a variation of the methodology developed together with ACAF for its specific needs.

How the project works

Having enrolled in the project, the women entrepreneurs:

  • attend an initial presentation given by the Espai Empren Foundation;
  • take part in an individual interviews with an entrepreneurship technician and a social worker;
  • form groups based on the professional interests and psychosocial charecteristics of the participants, also revealed during the interviews; the women entrepreneurs work in different sectors, including the beauty services, clothes and retail, restaurants, and more: the project's groups are thus based on migrant women’s professional interests and their connections which could also be utilised and promoted;
  • women attend specific business courses, meet also twice a month within their groups, with one meeting devoted to the entrepreneurial goals, and another to the social aspect of the project; entrepreneurship technicians also provide support

Image: Participants in the project ©Servei Solidari Foundation 

Financing

The members of each group deposit money a common fund. The amount lodged by each member determines the proportions of the individual loans they would be able to benefit from. The Espai Empren Foundation periodically doubles the amount of the saved money in order to boost the loan capacity of the groups.

Each group sets the conditions of its own self-financing community. In a consensual manner, issues such as for whether and what interest rates would be charged on loans are decided. All financial transactions are recorded during each meeting, and the new cash balances are kept in a box.

From the first day on, the group members share the responsibility and ownership of their finances.

Finally, all business projects ventured by the migrant women are tracked and assessed by the entrepreneurship technicians who supports their implementation and growth plans.

Results

Outcomes for the participants

The project tracks its results in terms of professional and personal outcomes.

In terms of professional outcomes, the participants have enjoyed:

  • increased financial management knowledge;
  • improved business performance;
  • networking with other businesses;
  • increased ability to repay possible future bank loans

In addition, the following personal outcomes have been tracked:

  • an increase in general wellbeing;
  • an increase in confidence levels;
  • expanded social network;
  • increased sense of resilience

R&D

In addition to above-mentioned short study on the impact of microcredits available here, the project has also been included in a market analysis of the different microcrediting opportunities available to women entrepreneurs, together with other similar initiatives operating in Spain.

As a result, the project organisers have also started a dynamic training tool on entrepreneurship which are meant to be made available to all interested parties online, thus also encouraging the increased use of technology.

More on all this find on the project's page here

Evaluation

The evaluation of the project's groups' performances is completed through two methods:

  • an assessment by the social workers responsible for analysing the personal situation of the team members;
  • periodic assessments by the entrepreneurship technicians tracking the development of each business

 

Who benefits

This project is targeted at entrepreneurial migrant women who lack economic and social resources.

So far, Microcredits has worked with 55 women of various ages and nationalities. Third-country nationals include representatives of Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico, Senegal, Mali and Guinea, but the project is also open to migrant women from other EU countries such as Bulgaria and Italy. 

Funding and resources

The project relies on grants provided by:

  • Local level: Barcelona Activa and La Caixa
  • National level: Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social
  • European level: Erasmus+

About this good practice

Details

Posted by
Francesco Pasetti - CIDOB
Country Coordinator
Microcredits abstract
English
(1.07 MB - PDF)
Download
Microcredits in the developed countries - the case of Barcelona
English
(2.02 MB - PDF)
Download

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