Eleven community organisations across Jamaica will be able to turn their activities into successful community businesses, thanks to a partnership forged between the Digicel Foundation and the UWI Mona School of Business and Management - Office of Social Entrepreneurship (OSE).
The initiative operates under the theme, 'Back to Roots - Stronger Roots, Stronger Communities, Stronger Nation'. It aims to help community organisations become more self-reliant by facilitating their transition to social enterprises, by teaching them how to run sustainable community businesses. As social enterprises, these community organisations will promote community development by the activities they carry out, as well as by their increased capacity to generate wealth and employment.
The 11 pilot projects promote community development through education, skills training, sports, and employment and income generation. They will receive funding totalling J$13 million from the Digicel Foundation. They will also receive support from the OSE in a variety of areas crucial to starting and running sustainable community businesses, including entrepreneurial thinking and practice, preparation of business plans and models, proposal writing, and assistance in cultivating and strengthening key partnerships.
Effective monitoring and evaluation
The Digicel Foundation's partnership with the OSE will also allow for effective monitoring and evaluation of the social impact of the initiatives being financially supported, not just at the completion of each project, but also over time.
"It is important that the UWI campuses play a pivotal role in the development of the Caribbean region," noted Professor Archibald McDonald, deputy principal at the University of the West Indies, Mona. "This programme gives us the opportunity to do so by investing in our communities. It also gives our students the opportunity to get some hands-on experience, and allows for quality research into effective ways to encourage entrepreneurship and growth in our communities."
Among the community organisations to receive funding are St Thomas Bee Farmers' Association; St Mary Bee Farmers' Association; Wickwar/Silver Grove Producers and Marketing Organisation, Colleyville Producers and Marketing Organisation, and Prospect Pig Farmers, both in Manchester, and the Women's Resource and Outreach for projects in Spring Bank and Trinityville, both in St Thomas.
The Digicel Foundation has already begun to disburse the $13 million and it is anticipated that all 11 communities will receive their funding by March of this year.
In summarising the thinking behind the 'Back to Roots' project, Samantha Chantrelle, executive director at the Digicel Foundation, said, "The Digicel Foundation is happy to do its part in assisting community members to become self-reliant by developing projects that foster sustainable growth and development."