Economic empowerment


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.

Our work

Inclusive Market Systems Development in Tanzania

Supporting cocoa farmers in Papua New Guinea

Programming approach in the Pacific

Social Franchising in Cambodia

Small and Growing Business Finance in Sri Lanka

How we invest in real change

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. 

World Vision’s iMSD 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.

Improving the lives of the poor requires transforming the environment around them, including the market systems within which they are located. World Vision recognises the importance of engaging the private sector when affecting market change, co-creating sustainable market-led interventions with a commercially driven imperative to achieve scale.

Building on over 15 years of deep community level engagement in value chain programming, the Economic Empowerment Team is now working with our partner offices to take a more systemic approach to market development that is led by the private sector actors who can truly create sustained change for our target communities. 

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 is cooperating with BRAC on a new UPG model, which is currently being rolled out across the world. 

Financial Inclusion 

Globally, 1.7 billion adults do not 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 seven percent exists globally –  amongst developing countries the gap widens to nine 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, 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.

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 sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment for all.

This model addresses a global credit gap for high potential small businesses in developing countries who require credit beyond the traditional limits of microfinance but are unable to access commercial bank funding. In addition to suitable finance, World Vision offers tailored one-on-one coaching to build the capacity of entrepreneurs to improve business practices and grow.

World Vision focuses on helping high growth potential entrepreneurs, particularly women entrepreneurs, in the "most missing middle" to maximise their potential, thereby generating stable and inclusive employment in their local communities and facilitating increased trade flows through additional purchasing and processing in their local economies.

The SGB Finance program:

  • offers affordable and accessible financing between US$4,000 and US$25,000 to help small businesses grow; and
  • facilitates ongoing business coaching that will enable the businesses to achieve their goals, thereby delivering both financial and social outcomes.

Learn more about SGB Finance.

The microfinance model, facilitated by VisionFund International, 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.

Women's Economic Empowerment

Around the world, women are disproportionately affected by poverty. Women are more likely to have less access to opportunities for skills development, fewer resources and less access to market services and information.

In addition, women are often constrained by social norms that influence their ability to make decisions and manage workloads within households, communities and markets.

World Vision is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment through an intentional approach across our livelihoods programs, including: Inclusive Market Systems Development and Financial Inclusion.

Our programs seek to promote women’s access to opportunities and resources, as well as increased agency, including decision-making ability and more manageable workloads.

World Vision adopts an integrated whole of program approach to gender inclusion and WEE outcomes across design, strategy development, intervention development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Within our iMSD programs, we aim to make women visible, value their paid and unpaid work, understand their specific constraints and opportunities within a market, and design interventions to address these.

In our Financial Inclusion programs, we adopt and implement Gender Lens Investing principles to ensure gender is considered at each stage pre- and post-financial transaction as well as through ongoing technical assistance. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, World Vision seeks to promote positive gender norm change within the communities we work with.

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).

Andy Hunter  Principle Advisor, Inclusive Market Systems Development (iMSD)

Andy leads World Vision’s Inclusive Market Systems Development (iMSD) portfolio. The portfolio includes Market Systems programming across the Asia-Pacific region, East Africa and the Middle East, designing and supporting market-led interventions that engage the private sector. 

Andy moved into international development via UNICEF, Red Cross and the Salvation Army, after having worked in the private sector across Melbourne in business development and entrepreneurship.

As principle advisor, Andy is responsible for overseeing the portfolio strategy and providing oversight to the technical support offered to project teams who implement market systems grants.

Grants under management span programming approaches including Gender Sensitive Market Systems Development (including M4P), Local Value Chain Development and selected push methodologies aimed at building the productive capacity of farmers and small businesses in partnership with the private sector.

Andy supports in acquisition, design, recruitment, implementation and results measurement across these projects – working closely with his core project teams in-country and reporting back to donors and partners for shared learning. His experience as technical lead includes projects and facilities funded by DFAT, MFAT, LIFT, the World Bank, Cocoa Life, DGIS, EEP and ADB. Andy holds a Bachelor of Business (International Business) and a Master of International Relations.

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; more than 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).

Gayathri Jayadevan (She/Her) – Women’s Economic Empowerment Technical Advisor

Gayathri is an economist and a gender specialist with over 16 years’ international development experience. She has facilitated and led women’s economic empowerment (WEE) program development and review processes in humanitarian and development contexts working across the United Nations, government and non-government actors in Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Gayathri is passionate about localisation and has dedicated her time to support local partners, multiple stakeholders and networks in the Global South to uptake greater leadership, adapt management and accountability processes, and lead local economic development that delivers results on gender equality, often in complex, fragile and conflict contexts. 

Gayathri’s interest lies in shifting women’s power and promoting women’s voice in local economic development policies, laws and service delivery, particularly in climate resilient agriculture and finance sectors where potential for women’s empowerment is high.

At World Vision Australia, Gayathri is continuing her commitment to facilitating thought leadership and knowledge management on adaptation of WEE approaches across the organisation and in programs. 

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. 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.

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).