[Newsletter 1] Friends International set to turn street kids into business owners
We hope you are doing well!
Saturday, August 2nd at 12:40pm, departure of the brother-sister duo to Cambodia after a quick stop in China. Not so easy to get used to the jet lag! J We have been in Phnom Penh for a week now with an objective: a tech mission with Friends International. After a warm welcome and a few days with an incredible team, here are few words on their mission and activities.
The Friends International NGO was founded 25 years ago by a French social entrepreneur, Sebastien Marot. This NGO can be considered as a social enterprise. Their mission is clear: protecting marginalized children and their families and training them with professional skills leading to a full time employment in Cambodia & South East Asia. We have been impressed by the professionalism of the teams and their structured processes from the care of distressed families to full time job placement.
Last year with Friends, it was:
- 5 countries in South East
- 6000 children supported to go to school
- 1400 young people accompanied to be employed
- 7700 parents supported in the care of their children
#Saving Lives :
When a youth in distress is identified within a community, the “Saving lives” teams provide a fast & straight forward support (drugs, health, violence issues…) and perform an assessment on how they could support him in the best way.
A professional training is then proposed to young people by the team “Building Futures”. 7 high potential job tracks have been identified on which they have built training programs coupled with the launch of real businesses. Students and teachers work together in classrooms and then practice in “real-life” environment.
In Phnom Penh, Friends launched the Futures Factory, where a restaurant, a hairdressing salon, a beauty salon, a fashion retail concept store, a welding business, an electricity company and a garage coexist together.
By setting up social enterprises across 5 countries, young people are trained with the right skillsets, while self-financing 30% of the budget of the organization. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Once they pass their degree, which is recognized by the state, Friends helps them to get a job thanks to their network of partners.
We have checked the list of requests from Friends’ partners, it’s a long one, well-done! 😉
#One Day One Leader
To better understand the issues related to the country, every evening we invite a leader from the social, business or political spheres for an informal exchange. Here are a few lines on an outstanding entrepreneur. At 17 years old, Rithy Thul had lost almost everything … However, he is an entrepreneur at heart and a fighter! In his thirties, he is now the central figure of the Cambodia startup ecosystem with a company producing state-of-the-art computers mixing power and accessibility, the first co-working space launched in Cambodia, as well as the status of the most active business angel.
Nevertheless, his dream goes far beyond! Thousands of hectares of forest are cut each year by businessmen who are not very respectful of the environment. Rithy has a solution. By buying 300 hectares of strips of land bordering the mountains, he estimates that he can save up to 100,000 hectares of forest.
His project is to launch an eco-friendly community with 70% reforestation, 15% eco-tourism infrastructures and 15% agriculture. To ensure long-term protection, he aims at creating a network of 1000 entrepreneurs including those he has already funded on the theme of environmental protection. Guess what! This project is not just a dream, it is already on-going!
We were surprised that one of the major issues around the protection of children in Cambodia is the fake orphanages. In 10 years, orphanages have nearly tripled with many “fake orphanages” where up to 77% of these children are not orphans. The cause: “volunteering tourism”. Some tourists come to visit organizations and pay to take care of children in these unscrupulous organizations without knowing that these children have been removed from their families. Kidnapping, Money, a promise of a better future make it possible to convince families to entrust their children. In 2015, under the impetus of UNICEF and Friends, a law was passed to reduce by 30% the number of children in these structures. We are not there yet but it is progressing!
After this long email, do not hesitate to send us your news! J
Have a great week,
Marine & Romain
[Newsletter 2] Digitalization as a powerful tool to make NGO’s operations more efficient
Two weeks already! Many great meetings, discoveries of incredible initiatives and exchanges in order to better understand the local context. Here is some news before our final straight.
#Mission at Friends international
Convincing a donor to support an educational program is much more concrete and attractive than financing office rentals or IT softwares that are just as important. Many NGOs are therefore forced to under-staff or limit certain key expenditure items, particularly those related to the admin.
To our knowledge, 3 levers may apply to cover these costs:
- Securing non allocated funds for specific projects (ex: EPIC Foundation)
- Launch self-financing activities to cover part of the budget
- Digitalization by integrating a panel of IT solutions into their activities
Our mission at Friends International is part of their digitalization strategy which aims at setting up a central information system. Who would not dream of collecting data in real time or automating reporting? For some NGOs, some reports may take up to a week to consolidate. Our goal is to help them in the identification and implementation of their recruitment platform to ensure the matching / tracking of hundreds of beneficiaries from Vocational Training Programs with companies seeking to recruit. The stakes are various: cost, integration, UX, security, internal resources, API … A few more days of work and we will provide them our report.
#One Day One Leader
We had the chance to cross the road of Frédéric Dubois who is leading a team of water entrepreneurs. The association 1001 fountains, does it speak to you? An exciting adventure on access to drinking water in rural areas! Their goal is one million beneficiaries by 2020.
They are building turnkey water kiosks, which are donated to the villages. The management of the kiosks is covered by micro-entrepreneurs, who ensure the production and home-delivery of water bottles. Their system is 100% sustainable while providing quality water at an unbeatable price. $ 0.4 for 20 liters! Every day, 500 000 people access drinking water through their network of 200 kiosks.
Among the multitude of buildings under construction in the capital, we were very surprised to see the many inscriptions in Chinese on them. For example, the city of Sihanoukville now hosts more than 50 Chinese casinos and 150 additional ones in a near future. Capital flows are followed by significant immigration. Between 2017 and 2018, there were 210,000 Chinese excluding tourists, 2X more than the previous year. On the one hand, the support of the Chinese seems to be an accelerator on topics such as energy with the construction of 7 hydroelectric dams (up to 50% of the needs of the country) or transport with the construction of highways. On the other hand, Cambodians face projects funded by Chinese, built by Chinese companies and intended for Chinese without benefiting Cambodians. In Sihanoukville, 90% of businesses now belongs to Chinese.
We hope you enjoy your holidays,
See you next week!
Marine & Roman
Ps: Finally found the ideal flip flops that we were looking for! J
[Newsletter 3] Friends International is convinced about the benefits of tech and aims at being fully digitalized
3 weeks already! After two short days in Siem Reap to visit Ampor, International Program Manager at Friends International and a visit of the incredible Angkor temples, we headed to the airport!
#Friends International Digitalization
After completing our mission which was to support on the identification and implementation of a recruitment platform to ensure the matching / tracking of hundreds of beneficiaries, we shared our report.
We have recommended the implementation of two integrated solutions: Oscar and Salesforce. What we really appreciated is their real desire to digitalize all their programs. We had interesting conversations related to the implementation of those solutions, team trainings, recruitment of their future IT / CTO, cost optimization…
In general, we have noticed many NGOs perceive digitization as a powerful way to create a sustainable competitive advantage (centralized data collection, automated reports, real-time information…). On the other side, we also notice that the panel of available solutions is growing. Companies like Salesforce created specific packs for NGOs, startups are developing dedicated SaaS solutions or NGOs partnered together to share the costs of developing a common tech solution…
#One Day One Leader
This week, we met Darong Chour, director of the NGO Krousar Thmey. We met a few weeks after a major announcement. The Cambodian government approved the transfer of their 5 schools for blind and deaf children including more than 200 teachers to the Ministry of Education. In the 1990s, there were no infrastructures to support blind and deaf children. To address this issue, the team created a version of the Braille in Khmer, they adapted the sign language and they traduced to the entire Cambodian curriculum. This year, more than 300 blind and 750 deaf children are currently supported by Krousar Thmey.
#Just a thought
We had an interesting discussion on the major challenges our generation will have to face with. To our knowledge, we can distinguish 3 challenges: technology with the fast development of the infotech and the biotech, the nuclear race and the climate change. The current news on the Amazon forest is interesting. Thousands of hectares of forest are currently burning mainly because of deforestation. We could ask ourselves a number of questions: could a responsible forest business owner be paid for its contribution to CO2 capture? On the contrary, should a company deforesting hundreds of hectares to develop a mass cattle activity pay what could be called the cost of externalities? What would happen to the valuation of a company exploiting mineral resources on the seabed but destroying biodiversity on a large scale at the same time? Governments and international institutions will have to make major decisions to address these issues. Is it the responsibility of a company with a disastrous carbon footprint to fund solutions to address this problem? Financial markets will have to consider these new environmental and societal indicators as inseparable from long-term performance. Philanthropist or not, those who do not take it into account may have a difficult awakening. If you want further details, here is an interesting articles : The Comprehensive businesscase for sustainability from Harvard Business review
A big thank you to Cécile and the EPIC team who made this project possible!
A big thank you to my mentors including Alex and Charles who help me ask myself the right questions!
A big thank you to my family, my friends and all those who followed this newsletter for your kind messages!
Have a great week,
Marine & Romain