Avon ladies of Bangladesh”, has developed into JITA.Could an NGO “programme” develop into a social enterprise? That’s exactly what has happened in Bangladesh, where CARE International’s Rural Sales Programme (RSP), sometimes known as the “
It is rare for a woman to leave her home in parts of rural Bangladesh. Many have never made a purchase of any kind. Goods for female consumers – ranging from clothing to contraception – are typically purchased through male relatives.
JITA is a social enterprise, and aims to make money in order to sustain itself rather than relying on money from donors. It developed from a programme whereby (initially just 49) women living in rural areas sell goods for female consumers in small quantities that people in poor communities can afford. They sell items from multinational companies and local goods. Travelling to remote communities on motorbikes door to door in their own remote communities they are able to reach areas which previously have not had access to these kinds of products. They mostly sell cosmetics, but also other items.
The programme’s main aim has been to economically empower the women who take part. They gain an income, as well as independence. It has also enabled other rural women to access products that they have previously not had access to.
From this fledgling NGO programme, CARE International and danone.communities have announced a joint venture - ‘JITA’ - a groundbreaking NGO-private sector hybrid. Scaling up and adapting a similar model, JITA aims to employ 12,000 women and reach 10 million customers in Bangladesh by 2014.
Christine Svarer, Head of Private Sector Engagement at CARE International UK, said: ‘JITA has pushed the boundaries of the relationship between business and development, demonstrating the potential for market-based approaches to provide economic empowerment for poor women.
‘We should strive to go beyond traditional donor-based solutions to poverty to inclusive models that combine business knowledge and dynamism, with core NGO skills of engaging with communities, understanding their needs and recognising their capacity to be active participants in development solutions.’
On 29 March Professor Linda Scott, DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Said Business School, University of Oxford, and senior representatives from Unilever, Danone and DFID spoke in a panel discussion on CARE RSP and the issues surrounding ”Base of the Pyramid” (BoP) initiatives during the prestigious Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, Oxford.
A video of the discussion, hosted by The Guardian’s Jo Confino with an introduction from Dr Helene Gayle, President of CARE USA, will be available shortly.
The story of how JITA was born from RSP, and the full story of the processes it went through in becoming a self funding social enterprise is told in two recent publication, namely Inside Inclusive Business 1: Striking a balance between profits and impact, by the Department for International Development’s Business Innovation Facility, and also in a Teaching Case by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.