Economic empowerment

A married couple sitting in a field

Economic Empowerment Team

The Economic Empowerment Team (formerly named the Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development [SEED] Unit) develops and supports scalable economic development approaches and inclusive business models targeting poverty reduction, by empowering households to increase their income, assets and financial stability.

Our integrated approach has three key focus areas:

  • Inclusive Market Systems Development (iMSD)
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Women's Economic Empowerment


Who we are

The Economic Empowerment Team is a technical team of business and international development specialists with experience in developing commercially viable models that enhance growth opportunities for smallholder farmers, youth, small business owners, entrepreneurs and the market systems they are involved in.

The team has a specific focus on achieving women's economic empowerment throughout its programming approaches. Our work involves the research, design, support, scaling and measurement of effective approaches to economic development in emerging markets, achieving both social and financial outcomes.

Our work spans agricultural value chains and inclusive market systems development (iMSD); financial inclusion for the un- and under-banked; small and medium business/entrepreneur financing and capacity building; and women's economic empowerment.

Our aim is that these approaches are scalable and inclusive of poor women and men, so that they can prosper, make informed decisions about their livelihoods, and better care for themselves and their children.

Read more about our evidence and learning in economic empowerment programs documented in our 2022 meta-analysis impact brief.

Our work

Women’s Economic Empowerment in Bangladesh

Supporting cocoa farmers in Papua New Guinea

Social Franchising in Cambodia

Finance for Small and Growing Businesses

Inclusive Market Systems Development in Indonesia

Programming approach in the Pacific

How we invest in real change

Gender Inclusive Financial Literacy Training

Inclusive Market Systems Development (iMSD)

The Economic Empowerment Team hosts a cluster of Market Systems Development specialists focused on facilitating sustained market system changes that benefit the poor.

To promote both growth and pro-poor outcomes, World Vision’s programs promote inclusive business models which seek to engage poor people as producers (smallholder farmers and microentrepreneurs), as employees (labourers and workers) and as consumers (buyers and beneficiaries of goods and services). 

Recognising that people at different levels of poverty require different levels of support, World Vision integrates both market-focused and household-focused strategies based on the level of market readiness, such as coaching, business and financial literacy training and smart subsidies. We also recognise that gender inclusive approaches are required that respond to the different barriers and opportunities for women and men.  



For more information on the Economic Empowerment Team’s approach to iMSD, please refer to our iMSD overview, the MORINGA Project microsite or our iMSD policy position published on the BEAM Exchange website. You can also view our MORINGA Project Impact Brief, which is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).  

World Vision’s other livelihoods approaches 

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

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

Read a recent Social Franchising impact report from Cambodia.

Ultra-Poor Graduation Approach (UPG) is a comprehensive, time-bound and sequenced set of interventions that aim to graduate people from ultra-poverty – who live on less than US$1.90 per day – to sustainable livelihoods. 

Based on a detailed understanding of the poverty characteristics in a location, the approach focuses on meeting the ultra-poor’s basic needs, before supporting them with income generation activities. The UPG approach includes support with basic needs, savings groups, coaching, market-driven asset transfer, technical livelihoods, social participation and gender inclusion activities. When working with the ultra-poor, World Vision works to understand the complex relationship between gender and poverty, placing high priority on understanding the specific challenges of female headed ultra-poor households.

World Vision has cooperated with BRAC on a new UPG model, which is currently being rolled out across the world. To find out more, please review our UPG Overview and UPG Handbook

Financial Inclusion 

Despite recent improvements, 1.4 billion adults still don't have an account with a formal financial service provider.

A disproportionate number of women are "unbanked" as compared to men and a significant gender gap in account ownership of four percent exists globally –  amongst developing countries the gap widens to six percent.

A lack of affordable financial services restrains families and individuals from being able to overcome hardships and thrive.

Financial Inclusion – or inclusive access to appropriate, affordable financial services, including savings accounts and loans, that effectively meet people’s financial needs – has been recognised as a key enabler to many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 



Financial Inclusion can contribute to poverty reduction in two broad ways: 

  1. Enabling poor people to climb out of poverty by empowering them to invest in business opportunities and their children’s education, both of which are linked to increased future income.
  2. Building resilience among the poor and vulnerable to survive economic disasters like unemployment, natural disasters, health issues and/or the loss of a breadwinner, thus preventing people from falling into the poverty trap. 

Financial Inclusion plays an important role in World Vision’s Livelihoods approach across all levels of poverty and income, while also intersecting and working in conjunction with other development priorities such as healthcare, climate change, nutrition and education.

Financial Inclusion of vulnerable groups, especially women, can increase equality by providing women with greater control over finances, an important link to women’s economic empowerment.


World Vision's Financial Inclusion approaches

S4T plays a significant role by facilitating a sustainable development platform for families to make regular savings and access small loans from within their savings group. 

These groups provide financial services such as savings, small loans and a micro insurance system to those who are often excluded from the formal financial sector. 

S4T builds resilience by enabling community members to develop financial literacy skills and access funds to manage household emergencies, learn long-term coping strategies and invest in household livelihoods. These groups become important social safety nets for their members, creating a greater sense of empowerment and trust within communities.

The World Vision S4T model intentionally aims to connect as many households as possible into these groups by providing accessibility and inclusion for women, people with disabilities and others often left behind.

For more on S4T, please see the Overview, Design Guide and Implementation Guide. To find out more about the role of S4T groups in promoting resilience to natural disasters in Sri Lanka, please see our research brief

World Vision and its microfinance subsidiary, VisionFund International, provide "missing middle" finance and non-financial support (coaching and technical support) to enable high growth potential small businesses to overcome capacity constraints and achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth, accompanied by full and productive employment.

World Vision and VisionFund have recently completed a four-year pilot project in Myanmar and Ghana which was funded by the Australian Government. Three different products were piloted: a loan only; a loan plus coaching; and a loan plus coaching and more technical training. The larger loans made a positive difference to the SGB businesses and 11,000 jobs were created or sustained. Other details of the project can be found in this Impact Brief

The microfinance model is focused on providing a comprehensive range of financial services such as credit, savings accounts and insurance, delivered with high standards of service, so that rural families can thrive and recover from disaster.

Microfinance is provided to off-farm businesses, smallholder farmers and to support other income-generating activities across the poverty spectrum, from extreme poor to vulnerable poor with a specific focus on women.  It is provided by World Vision in partnership with Microfinance Institutions such as VisionFund.


Women's Economic Empowerment

World Vision adopts a holistic approach to Women’s Economic empowerment (WEE), which comprises four domains of empowerment. The organization promotes women's economic advancement, access to opportunities, services, and resources, and agency, including decision-making ability in households and markets, manageable paid and unpaid workloads, and well-being. Finally, World Vision promotes equitable systems where women can benefit from equitable policies, laws, institutional practices, and social norms.

World Vision promotes a gender inclusion lens to our work in inclusive market systems development (iMSD) and financial inclusion. 

World Vision supports women to better engage in economic markets by working with market actors on gender-inclusive business models that include women as producers, employees, and consumers. 

women sitting on the ground

Based on the context, we also work directly with women, men and communities on targeted approaches to address gender-based constraints, such as skills development or activities to promote equitable gender relations and social norms. For example, some projects have implemented Gender Inclusive Financial Literacy Training, as integrating gender transformative models like World Vision’s Community Change (C-Change) models or Promundo’s Mencare model alongside economic development approaches. 
For more information about our work in WEE, please see our World Vision International (WVI) WEE webpage or  WEE Briefing Paper


World Vision's Women's Economic Empowerment approaches

As a child-focused organisation, our vision is to economically empower caregivers for the well-being of their children. We want to see increased incomes for women and men translate into child well-being outcomes. To achieve this, the global evidence is clear: gender equality and women’s economic empowerment (WEE) is a key driver in realising child well-being outcomes. When women are stable financial contributors to a household, investments in children’s health and education increase.

Linking WEE and financial inclusion, World Vision’s Gender Inclusive Financial Literacy Training (GIFT) was developed for couples and aims to ensure that both women and men have access to the financial literacy knowledge and skills that they need to manage their money and save for the future, including for emergencies. It also aims to promote more gender equitable relationships, or a 'household approach', where women and men are partners in the household with both having agency in decisions linked to their finances. For more information, see the GIFT two-page overviewmanual, visual aids and technical note



Developed by Promundo, Mencare – Program P is a gender-transformative model to train couples over a 14-week period on issues of gender equality. Program P has been adapted and/or implemented in at least 18 countries around the world. Results from a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of Program P in Rwanda released in 2018 reveal powerful impacts on health and violence outcomes.

World Vision has been partnering with Promundo to adapt the MenCare model in the Nutrition Sensitive Value Chain (NSVC) for Smallholder farmers Project and Gender Inclusive Pathways out of Poverty Project (GPOP) in Bangladesh for livelihoods. For more information, please review the NSVC Impact brief.

Developed by Promundo, Journeys of Transformation (JOT) is a 14-week training module for couples where the husband or wife has been participating in a savings group. It was first piloted by CARE in Rwanda, with positive results. World Vision has been partnering with Promundo – US to adapt their gender-transformative JoT model in the Sri Lanka Gender and Disability Inclusive Economic Development (iLIVE) Project. For more information, please review the iLIVE Impact brief.


Meet the Economic Empowerment Team

Ellie Wong – Manager (She/Her)

Ellie leads strategy and technical oversight of World Vision Australia's economic empowerment programs across the Asia-Pacific region, East Africa and the Middle East. She manages a team of specialists responsible for inclusive market systems development, financial inclusion, and women’s economic empowerment (WEE) programs.
Ellie joined World Vision in 2015. Prior to taking up her current role, Ellie was World Vision Australia’s Senior WEE Advisor, leading the development of World Vision’s WEE framework and technical approach and the expansion of World Vision’s WEE programs in the Asia-Pacific region.
Before working with World Vision, Ellie held roles with various United Nations and non-government organisations. She previously managed the International Organisation for Migration’s mixed migration program in China, focused on capacity building, policy dialogue, and the return and reintegration of vulnerable migrants and survivors of human trafficking from the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
Ellie is passionate about evidence-based development practice, and the intersection of economic and social systems, gender equality and migration. She holds a master’s degree in social development (international development) and a bachelor's degree in arts (government and international relations, media and communications).

Tewodros Mekonnen – Senior Economic Development Advisor – inclusive Market Systems Development (iMSD)

Tewodros (Teddy) Mekonnen joined the Economic Empowerment Team in November 2022.

Teddy is responsible for technical leadership and advice in inclusive Market Systems Development (iMSD) and business development as World Vision Australia scales up the iMSD approach across our economic empowerment programming.

His focus is to advise our project teams in fragile contexts and build evidence and learning on markets in crisis. He is working cross-functionally on building World Vision Australia’s thought leadership in iMSD in partnership with our Field Impact teams. 

Teddy has diverse experience in facilitating high-level development programs to measurably improve impact across Ethiopia and other East African countries. He has expertise in Market Systems Development, Small and Medium Enterprises, Financial Inclusion, Climate-Smart Agri-Business, Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion, and Governance. 

Prior to joining World Vision, he worked extensively in the development space for over 12 years. At Mastercard Foundation, Teddy was responsible for overseeing and embedding the Market Systems Development approach in programs across the foundation. In addition, whilst working for DAI Ltd and SNV, he worked on developing MSD projects including Strengthening Host and Refugee Population (SHARP) and Livelihood Improvement for Women and Youth (LIWAY) in Ethiopia, which were implemented in rural and urban settings respectively.  

Barclay (Clay) O’Brien – Financial Inclusion Advisor

Clay joined World Vision Australia in July 2021 and advises on its projects for savings groups (S4T), financial literacy (such as Gender Inclusive Financial Literacy training (GIFT)), Small and Growing Businesses (SGB) loans, microfinance and other activities in access to finance.

Clay was based in Myanmar from early 2019 until February 2021, working with microfinance institutions, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and other development partners – and before that in 2012-13 with the UN-managed Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT) fund.

Clay’s previous positions include: Managing Director of AYANI Inclusive Financial Sector Consultants; two years in Indonesia running an agricultural finance project (SAFIRA); the Senior Sector Specialist for Financial Inclusion at the Australian aid program (Australia Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT)); and various roles with the global microfinance network, Opportunity International. 

In total, Clay has worked in international development for more than 18 years. Prior to that, he was Managing Director of an investment bank (ING Barings), focused on mergers and acquisitions, and began his career as a lawyer (with Allen Allen & Hemsley). Clay holds a Bachelor of Law (Honours) and Master of Economics (International Development).

Tamam Noor  Senior Economic Development Advisor

Sadruzzaman (Tamam) Noor joined the Economic Empowerment Team in 2019 along with Diana Johannis to strengthen our technical support to a growing portfolio of iMSD programming. He has been working in international development for more than eight years with a particular focus on Market Systems Development (MSD). 

Tamam's hands-on programming experience includes working on well-known systems programs like Katalyst, as well as for very well respected implementing organisations including Swisscontact, DAI and most recently CARE Bangladesh. Importantly for World Vision, Tamam understands that it takes time for an NGO to move on the scale from being direct delivery focused and value chain orientated to becoming more systems focused in its thinking.

He has worked on MSD projects in Bangladesh for hard to reach socially, economically and geographically vulnerable populations funded by SDC, DFID, DANIDA and USAID’s Feed the Future. Being an apprentice to systems thinking early in his career he learned the concept on the job and understands the nuances between theoretical design and realities on the ground. He has an MBA degree from IBA, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and his specialisation in private sector engagement in rural contexts helps his projects to design market driven sustainable solutions to systemic constraints.

As a senior advisor, Tamam is responsible for providing technical advice to grant projects in Laos, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Burundi and Sri Lanka that have an iMSD or Ultra Poor Graduation component funded by donors such as DFAT and the European Commission. His expertise in MSD helps the projects he supports in developing pro-poor market oriented economic development interventions.

Tamam holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing) and a Master of Business Administration (Finance). 

Diana Margareth Johannis – Economic Development Advisor - iMSD

Diana Margareth Johannis joined World Vision Australia in 2019 as an Economic Development Advisor, specialising in iMSD. As advisor, Diana is responsible for providing technical advice to grant projects in Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Nepal.

She comes to us with well over a decade of experience in market development and value chain programming in Indonesia, with a successful private sector career behind her before that. She is currently leading the team's scoping work on green growth.

Diana was intimately involved in World Vision’s first Local Value Chain Development project in eastern Indonesia back in 2009-2012 as the project’s Market Facilitator.

Since then she was promoted within World Vision Indonesia, eventually becoming the National Economic and Livelihood Resilience Team Leader up until 2018. Prior to commencing in this role with the Economic Empowerment Team, Diana had been working for the Australian-Indonesia Partnership for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (MAMPU), focusing on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment through market development.

Diana has long been a specialist in Local Value Chain Development and more recently moved her focus to implementing market systems development programming through her work with DFAT’s Flagship MSD facility, the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Promoting Rural Incomes through Support for Markets in Agriculture (PRISMA). 

Concetta Scarfiello – Women's Economic Empowerment Advisor

Concetta joined World Vision Australia in 2022. She is leading the scale up of Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) projects in line with World Vision’s new WEE Framework and technical guidance. She is responsible for the continuous development and improvement of WEE technical resources, evidence and learning.

Concetta provides technical support to World Vision teams in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Myanmar, Burundi and Somalia. She is passionate about: financial feminism, the intersections of gender norms and economic empowerment in the realm of agency, and ending violence against women.

Prior to her current role, Concetta worked extensively in the development sector. At Oxfam Novib (Netherlands) she worked as Impact Measurement and Knowledge Specialist, applying qualitative participatory research and mixed-methods to intersectional analysis to inform transformative programming and learning for field project. This included: projects for young people claiming their sexual and reproductive health rights in the Middle East and North Africa, and civil society organisations advocating for more inclusive and sustainable value chains in 13 countries.

In Nepal, Concetta focused on financial inclusion and conducted research on how rural women creatively engage with formal lending. She examined how women demonstrate different forms of agency in relation to microfinance by strategically complying with social and institutional (lending) "rules" with the goal of bringing about desired changes to their lives. This included transforming their unequal marital relationships and enhancing opportunities for their daughters.

Concetta has also worked as an applied anthropologist for First Nations-led organisations in Central and South Australia on governance and participatory resource development. She has a PhD in Anthropology and Development Studies from the University of Adelaide, a Master of Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor of Ethnographic Studies from La Sapienza University of Rome. Outside of work, she enjoys playing sports, meditating and taking photos.