Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) Unit

Social Entrepreneurship, Economic Development, Inclusive Business and Impact Investing

The SEED Unit creates and supports scalable economic development and inclusive business models that utilise business principles and innovative practices to help people living in poverty gain the income and assets they need to work their way out of poverty.

Who we are

The SEED Unit is a team of business and international development specialists with experience in developing commercially viable models that enhance growth opportunities for farmers, youth, small business owners and the markets they are involved in. Our work involves the research, development, support and measurement of effective approaches to economic development in emerging markets.

SEED’s work spans small business/entrepreneur financing and development; youth livelihood and employment pathways; agricultural value chain and market systems approaches; BoP micro-franchizing and marketing; savings and financial inclusion initiatives; online learning platforms for capacity development and peer-to-peer support.

Our aim is that these approaches are scalable and inclusive of people who are poor so that they can prosper and better care for their children.

Want to partner with us?

Email our team if you would like to know more about partnering with SEED to deliver economic development programs.

Our work

Business Facilitation

Limited employment opportunities make it difficult for people to earn an income and provide for their families. Business Facilitation supports people in World Vision communities who want to start or strengthen their small business. Our Business Facilitators deliver business training and coaching, and support collective efforts to create an enabling local business environment.

Learn more about Business Facilitation (pdf).

Local Value Chain Development

Local Value Chain Development helps small farmers sustainably increase their incomes through better engagement with markets and by building relationships with service providers that can help them improve productivity, quality and overcome market barriers.

Learn more about Local Value Chain Development (pdf)


Microfranchising allows community representatives to earn an income by selling products, provides a community with access to a socially beneficial product they couldn't get before and product providers gain access to an emerging market in a cost-effective way.

Learn more about Microfranchising (pdf)

Savings Groups

Savings Groups focus on savings as accumulated capital, not credit. They facilitate savings, insurance and credit services in a small-scale and sustainable way to members who are traditionally outside the reach of formal financial institutions. They enable community members to plan ahead, smooth consumption, cope with household emergencies and invest in their livelihoods.

Learn more about Savings Groups (pdf)

Project model Accredited Learning & Support (PALS)

Project model Accredited Learning & Support is an award-winning online community learning approach. It delivers facilitated module based learning and support to World Vision economic development programming staff based in the field. 

Learn more about Project model Accredited Learning & Support (pdf)

'The eLVCD course notes are like a bible to me' (pdf)

Read more participant testimonials (pdf)


Youth livelihoods

Our youth livelihood work empowers adolescents and youth to become active citizens and equips them to successfully transition into adulthood.

Our multi-dimensional programs target the principal causes that perpetuate economic disadvantage amongst young people.

Learn more about Youth Livelihoods

Meet our team

Chris Rowlands - Manager of Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development

Bachelor of Commerce (Hons), Graduate Diploma in International and Community Development

Chris leads the Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) unit: a team of specialists who research, design and support the scale-up of economic development, inclusive business and social impact investing approaches throughout World Vision’s programs internationally. SEED have developed an award winning online learning approach to support staff’s capacity building and expansion of economic development approaches across World Vision programs globally. Prior to this role, Chris led the research, development and scale up of the Local Value Chain Development approach currently used to enhance local agricultural market systems in World Vision supported communities.

Chris sits on World Vision International's Resilience and Livelihoods ‘Community of Practice’ Steering Group which provides strategic direction and oversight to its economic development and resilience work around the globe. Chris also represents World Vision to a number of external forums including the Grow Asia initiative hosted by the World Economic Forum and ASEAN, which supports scalable, market-based solutions for sustainable, inclusive agriculture development that contributes to poverty reduction.

Chris joined World Vision Australia in 2008 and prior to this held roles with Ipsos Business Consulting and Westpac Banking Corporation. Outside of work, Chris spends his time with family and his other interests include travel, reading and distance running.

Get in touch with Chris

Mark Harwood - Learning and Support Manager

Bachelor of Business Management (Hons), Bachelor of Science in Psychology (Hons); Graduate Certificate in Social Impact

Mark joined World Vision Australia in March 2011 as a Strategy and Operations Advisor and since May 2012 has been the SEED Learning & Support Manager.

Mark and Gini have developed the PALS (Project model Accredited Learning & Support) online learning approach to support the World Vision employees who are implementing economic development programmes in developing contexts globally. These frontline employees are the organisation’s direct touch-points with the communities and partners we work alongside.

The PALS approach received the following 2014 awards from the LearnX Asia Pacific foundation:

•              Best eLearning Model, Online, Gold

•              Best New Technology, eLearning Adopter, Platinum

Together we have trained and certified 75 frontline staff who support approximately 50,000 smallholder farmer households using the Local Value Chain Development approach to increase their incomes, through business-based approaches and public-private partnerships.

He is also supporting an innovative Australian Government-funded pilot program in Sri Lanka that provides business incubation support to small and growing businesses (SGBs) in agricultural value chains. We are measuring both the financial and social outcomes to the SGB employees themselves as a result of the program, as well as the benefits to the smallholder farmer households who work alongside them in the agricultural value chains.

Prior to joining World Vision Australia, Mark worked with Accenture as a Management Consultant in their Strategy and Change Management division for six years, based out of Australia, Africa and Asia. When not working Mark enjoys cycling on land and surfing on water.

Andy Hunter - Economic Development Consultant, Market Development and Microfranchising

Bachelor of Business (International Business); Master of International Relations

Andy joined the SEED unit in November 2013 and works across the Local Value Chain Development approach and Microfranchising - an emerging hybrid Public Private Partnership project model tailored to new donor requirements. His work on the Local Value Chain Development model extends across Asia, the Pacific and East Africa and he also focuses on developing the Microfranchising pilots in Tanzania and Cambodia, working closely with our local project managers and partners.

He is currently supporting an innovative Australian Government-funded pilot program in Cambodia that utilises the Microfranchising approach and is partnering with local providers to offer last-mile distribution of agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers.

Andy relocated to take up his current role with SEED from a livelihoods project in Papua New Guinea, where he was working with coffee farmers in the Eastern Highlands. He has a business development background, specialising in entrepreneurial thinking and business modelling. He is highly engaged in his work and draws genuine excitement from using his skills in the development context – working towards market based solutions to fight the causes of poverty.

Cynthia Mulenga - Research and Evaluation Advisor, Economic Development

Bachelor of Arts (Economics and Demography) Honours in Development Studies and Master of Evaluation

Cynthia joined the SEED unit in March 2011 as a Research and Evaluation Advisor. She has worked at World Vision Australia since May 2010.

Cynthia has experience in Program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation (DME) and research. As a member of SEED, Cynthia’s role entails strategic evidence building of innovative programming approaches to economic development in poverty-stricken communities.

Before joining World Vision Australia, Cynthia worked for World Vision Zambia for six years as a HIV and AIDS Development Facilitator, Program Manager and Regional DME Officer. Cynthia also worked for the Local Authority as a District Planner for five years, managing integrated programs and coordinating the efforts of organisations working on development at the district level. For eight months, Cynthia also worked for GTZ as a consultant in developing a participatory and integrated development approach in two rural districts of Zambia.


Ingrid Richardson - Economic Development Consultant, Market Development (based in Thailand)

Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons), Master of Science in Sustainable Development (Rural Development)

Ingrid Richardson joined World Vision Australia in 2013 as an Economic Development Consultant, providing technical support to World Vision programs focused on market and value chain development. Ingrid leads the continued improvement and scaling up of the Local Value Chain Development project model in World Vision communities globally. Ingrid also provides advice to World Vision programming and policy staff to improve market orientation of WV activities.

Before joining World Vision, Ingrid worked in Vietnam as a consultant for a number of NGOs on monitoring and evaluation, with a focus on the design and evaluation of agricultural value chain projects. In Australia, Ingrid had roles in agricultural market research at Rabobank and with the Australian Federal Department of Fisheries and Forestry.


Kate Williams - Economic Development Consultant, Youth Pathways

Bachelor of Business Management, Master of Social Science (International Development)

Kate joined World Vision Australia in September 2012 as an Economic Development Consultant and is spearheading SEED's work in exploring and prototyping pathways for youth to better engage in economic activities. Kate is currently focusing on developing holistic approaches to adolescent and youth livelihood programming known as IMPACT Clubs or SKYE Clubs respectively. Kate was based in Armenia for two years supporting pilots across the Middle East and Eastern Europe regions, before transitioning to Cambodia in 2015 to provide focused technical assistance to the South-East Asia region. Kate also provides technical support to World Vision programming and policy staff across the Partnership as well as co -chairs World Vision's Youth Livelihoods Interest Group which brings together three World Vision Communities of Practice.

Prior to joining World Vision, Kate worked with a number of NGOs focusing on microfinance, business development and income generation projects in Nepal, Peru and the Philippines. In December 2012, Kate founded a Melbourne-based NGO, The Global Women's Project. Kate enjoys painting, yoga, hiking and rock climbing.


Lerina Sinaga - Economic Development Consultant, Asia Pacific (based in Timor-Leste)

Bachelor of Business Administration

Lerina joined World Vision Indonesia in 2009 to work on the WVA funded Market Development and Business Facilitation pilot projects. She currently provides technical support to Market Development and Business Facilitation projects implemented by World Vision in Asia and Pacific countries such as Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG.

Prior to joining World Vision, Lerina worked for Tearfund – UK as a Project Coordinator of small business enterprise development projects to help the Tsunami victims start and improve their businesses. Lerina also worked as a Livelihood Officer for Catholic Relief Services and for Compassion Indonesia. Lerina enjoys swimming, snorkelling and hiking.



Jennifer Bartlett - Economic Development Consultant, Business Facilitation

Master of International and Community Development, Assoc. Diploma in Project Management, Grad Certificate in Business (Tourism), Bachelor of Arts (Government and English)

Jennifer joined SEED in late 2014 to lead the evolution and scale up of the Business Facilitation project model. As Global Champion for ‘BF’, she provides advice to World Vision staff who are designing, implementing or evaluating this community-led approach to small businesses development.

Jen has worked for development agencies, the private sector, Governments and not-for profits in more than 20 countries. After shifting her tourism planning and marketing career to international development over 12 years ago, Jen worked on tourism sector development projects in Asia Pacific before joining the World Bank Group’s private sector arm (IFC).  She spent five years supporting, then managing IFC Advisory’s tourism program in the Pacific Islands, and advising on projects in East Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. In 2011, a Leadership Program took her to Washington DC for two years, where she co-developed a project design training course, and served as Strategist for IFC’s advisory strategies for Climate Change, Gender and Agribusiness.

In 2013, Jen’s passion for on-the-ground work led her to accept assignments with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean, initially to help develop their strategy, before taking on an interim COO role. Upon returning to Australia, she consulted on a tourism projects for the Department of Foreign Affairs and a business grant program for the NSW Government.

Jen is on the Board of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute, and is an Advisor to Sustainable Travel International.          

Virginia Gough - Project Model Learning and Communications Assistant

Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, Master of Social Science (International Development), Certificate IV Assessment & Workplace Training

Gini joined World Vision's SEED unit in February 2013. Working two days per week Gini supports Mark Harwood to implement the Project Model Accredited Learning and Framework (PALS), specifically designing and facilitating online learning experiences.

Gini comes from Oxfam Australia where for the past eight years she was the Organisational Learning and Development Manager and RedR Australia supporting their experiential learning programs. Gini has a Masters of International Development from RMIT University where she focused on professional adult education within the development sector. Gini enjoys spending time with her young family, camping holidays and gardening.