SEED Unit

SEED-hero

Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development

The 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 SEED Unit is a 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.

SEED’s work spans agricultural value chains and inclusive market systems development; financial inclusion for the un- and under-banked; small business/entrepreneur financing and capacity building; women's economic empowerment; and online learning platforms providing capacity development and peer-to-peer support for field-based staff.

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 SEED Unit 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 "push strategies" based on their level of market readiness, such as household engagement, 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 a comprehensive overview of the SEED Unit’s position on Inclusive Market Systems Development, please refer to our policy position published on the BEAM Exchange website. 

World Vision’s iMSD approaches 

 

 

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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 chian programming, the SEED Unit 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. 

 

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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.

 

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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 SEED team

 

Mark Harwood - Manager (SEED)

Bachelor of Business Management (Hons), Bachelor of Science in Psychology (Hons), Masters in Social Impact (Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship)

Mark leads the SEED Unit. Prior to this role, within SEED Mark led the development of an innovative approach to helping Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) to scale in order to achieve inclusive economic development through improved access to credit and ongoing business coaching.

Mark also previously managed the development of and co-designed an award-winning low-tech online platform providing technical assistance to field-based World Vision employees globally engaged in livelihoods programs.

The approach has become a business line within World Vision International with its own embedded self-sustaining revenue model and has now been adopted as the model for World Vision internationally across all sectors.

Mark also represents World Vision on the ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs) Asia Steering Committee. 

Prior to joining World Vision Australia in 2011, 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.

Get in touch with Mark


Ellie Wong - Senior Advisor (Women’s Economic Empowerment)

Bachelor of Arts (Government & International Relations, Media & Communications, English Literature); Master of Social Development (International Development)

Ellie joined World Vision in 2015 and worked on the design and management of economic development programming across the Asia-Pacific region. During this time, she worked on growing pilot programming on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) in the region. She joined the SEED Unit in 2018 and she currently leads the team’s WEE portfolio including programs in inclusive market systems, financial inclusion and social-franchising.
 
Drawing on inter-disciplinary skills, Ellie works with project teams to practically apply a gender lens across program design, implementation and results measurement to achieve positive program outcomes for women, men and communities.
 
Prior to joining World Vision, Ellie worked for the United Nations Migration Agency in China. She managed and grew IOM’s mixed migration and counter-trafficking program, working with Chinese Government counterparts on capacity building, policy dialogue and the return of survivors of human trafficking. She provided technical and program management support to IOM’s Mongolia office during this time.
 
Ellis has also worked for various private, NGO and education clients in research and communications in Sydney, including the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney and the Centre for Refugee Research. 

 


Esther Bates – Advisor (Financial Inclusion)

Masters of Public Administration (International Development), Bachelor of Commerce (Finance & Management), Graduate Certificate of Management (Leadership) 

Esther joined the SEED Unit in early 2018 as Financial Inclusion Lead. Her portfolio spans informal community-based savings for transformation groups, to formal small and growing business (SGB) finance and business coaching, in order to achieve inclusive economic development through improved access to credit and savings and capacity building. 

Prior to this, Esther has worked with the joint United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Capital Development Fund Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) in Fiji on financial innovation, consumer protection and results measurement across the Pacific. She was comprehensively involved with PFIP’s recent cutting-edge research across micro-pension schemes, savings groups, micro-insurance, pay-as-you-go solar energy, client demand-side data, and impact studies of financial inclusion.

Esther has also worked with Australian microfinance NGO Good Return as their Fiji in-country representative providing technical support on financial education programs, client protection and poverty tracking, and has over seven years of experience in the private sector spanning project, operational and commercial management.

Born in the UK, she has also lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Fiji.


Andy Hunter  Principle Advisor (Market Systems Development)

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

Andy heads World Vision’s Market Systems Development cluster, a team of dedicated specialists providing technical support to the programming portfolio. The portfolio includes Market Systems programming across Asia-Pacific, 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.


Tamam Noor  Senior Economic Development Advisor

Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing), Master of Business Administration (Finance)

Sadruzzaman (Tamam) Noor joined the SEED Unit 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.


Diana Margareth Johannis – iMSD Specialist

Diana Margareth Johannis joined the SEED Unit in 2019 as an iMSD specialist. 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 SEED, Diana had been working for the DFAT-funded facility 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, PRISMA.