Economic Empowerment

This programme builds upon components from NCA’s former Livelihood and Trade programme such as the work with agriculture, vocational training, and savings and loan groups, but with new focus requirements. When working with agriculture there will be a focus of value addition and value chain development. When working with savings and loan groups there will be a focus on entrepreneurship and developing and scaling up businesses. When working with vocational education there will be a holistic focus on linking the vocational students and the education institutions with the labour market and securing employment upon graduation.

Interventions and ambitions will be adapted to different country contexts. In fragile and conflict prone countries innovative approaches will to a larger extent continue to rely on traditional livelihood components than in more stable low and middle income countries.

The programme encourages collaboration with the private sector in addition to our faith-based partners and resource partners. In many country programmes, new partners will be included that have more technical knowledge and skills in order to achieve the programme goals.


1. Problem analysis
2. MAin methods and intervention strategies
3. Strengthening civil society
4. Added value
5. Integration of gender equality and youth in programming

1. Problem analysis

19. World Bank (2012) World Development Report 2013: Jobs, World Bank.

The world needs 600 million new jobs by 2030 just to sustain the current level of employment, not accounting for current day unemployment levels19. A key challenge today is the high unemployment among youth. Youth searching for employment often do not have the correct skills required by employers as a result of vocational training not responding to labour market demands. They often also lack work skills in order to both obtain and maintain employment and as a result many youth are unable to access the labour market.

Small and micro businesses, both in the formal and informal sector, are essential for the economy and it is here most new jobs are created. However, various social, political, legal, economic and cultural barriers make it difficult for small businesses to reach beyond the micro and informal level. There is a large gap between small scale entrepreneurs, farmers and small and micro businesses and the larger industries attracting foreign direct investment, in what is often referred to as the “missing middle”.

Most poor rural communities produce raw materials and products with limited value addition losing out on the main profit, and have limited control over the value chain of their products. Besides lack of access to capital, energy and technology, one of the major barriers to climbing the value chain is lack of access to markets, such as the lack of market and pricing information, political and bureaucratic barriers, physical/infrastructure barriers and gender barriers.

Rights holders often lack business, marketing, branding and communication skills to succeed in further developing and scaling up their businesses.

2. Main methods and intervention strategies

The overall goal of this global programme is that rights holders secure entrepreneurial opportunities and sustainable employment. A key indicator for this overall goal is rights holders’ reduced economic vulnerability. This programme has three main intervention strategies:

20. “Employability refers to a person’s capability for gaining and maintaining employment. For individuals, employability depends on the knowledge, skills and abilities they possess, in addition to the way they present those assets to employers” (the Oxford English Dictionary).

  1. vocational education and employability20
  2. entrepreneurship and enterprise development
  3. agriculture and value chain development

Contextual variations affect intervention strategies across countries. When NCA implements this programme in fragile and conflict-affected settings, ambitions and approaches will be different than in more stable low and middle income countries. The environment of fragile states creates limited (or unpredictable) access to vital resources (e.g. capital, technology, equipment, energy) for business development at a greater scale and restricts innovations21, whereas within the latter setting, engagement with the private sector is expected to foster entrepreneurial activities, enable scaling up of enterprises and stimulate indirect job creation.

21. World Bank (2015) The Small Entrepreneur in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations, World Bank.

The main indicator for success for the vocational training and employability intervention will be the number of rights holders that are able to gain and maintain employment upon completion of vocational education. It is important to map market demands for labour and align vocational education (the type of professions as well as the technical curriculum) so that graduates have the type of technical skills, knowledge and work skills that are in demand in the current labour market and students have the ability to market themselves as employees. There is a need for dialogue and collaboration with potential employers throughout the education period to facilitate internships and apprenticeships upon graduation. This intervention will build upon NCA’s partners’ experiences in facilitating linkages between government, civil society and market sector actors by creating relevant multistakeholder platforms to improve the quality and relevance of vocational education, as well as link graduates to future employers.

22. In this programme, “micro” would mean 1-2 employees, “small” 3-10 employees and “medium” from 10 employees upwards. Refer to the results framework for a more substantial definition.

The main indicator of success for the entrepreneurship and enterprise development intervention is that rights holders establish viable enterprises to generate increased and sustainable profit and employment. The focus of this intervention is not just to enable rights holders to establish businesses, but also for entrepreneurs to scale up and develop existing business from micro to small to medium size enterprises22.

Many rights holders struggle to scale up and/or formalise their business initiatives. There is a need to invest in developing skills and knowledge on how to manage a business, develop business plans as well as sales, marketing and communication strategies. This will be partly done through developing business incubators that provide a space for generating and developing innovative ideas, skills training, business advisory services, networking, and facilitate links that address the need for capital and insurance solutions. Key interventions will also include advocacy to address structural barriers and promote a more enabling environment for small enterprises, including improved policies and regulation.

This intervention builds upon best practice methods in NCA’s livelihood programme from 2011-2015 such as the saving and loan group model, with the aim of scaling up and developing these further. In some countries it will also include building on and developing access to renewable energy, and in some contexts we may need to explore other support functions (e.g. guarantor or insurance) for rights holders to gain access to capital other than the savings and loan group models. NCA’s role is to facilitate links and joint platforms with resource partners, entrepreneurs, government and private sector actors. In some contexts, it may also be feasible to identify and work to develop existing enterprises that have (the potential for) significant social/societal benefits for the programme’s rights holders.

The main indicator of success in the agriculture and value chain development intervention is significantly increased income and share in the value chain for small scale producers. The focus of this intervention is to increase yield and scale of agricultural production from small scale and subsistence agriculture to socially and economically viable value chains. This intervention requires a holistic value chain development approach, including market analysis to identify market demands for products and potential markets for products, enhanced skills and technology, business plans, and addressing power and control in the value chain (including from a gender perspective). This intervention will include advocacy for and facilitation of market access. NCA will work with partners and sister organisations to identify and utilise good methodologies for working with holistic value chain development.

This intervention will build on, scale up and develop existing work with farmers’ associations and cooperative models with the aim of making them more commercially sustainable. This will include facilitating links with resource partners and relevant private sector actors. In some countries NCA will build upon and develop renewable energy initiatives.

3. Strengthening civil society

This programme’s main contribution to strengthening civil society lies within mobilising and organising local communities for improved and sustained livelihood and economic empowerment. Through various forms of organisation and education, rights holders will gain relevant knowledge and skills to secure sustainable livelihoods, make use of economic opportunities and gain employment. Economic empowerment is a key step for most rights holders to be able to strengthen their voice and influence. Experience with saving and loan groups illustrates how when rights holders organise around their own income, they also become important voices for increased government accountability. By facilitating and organising multi-stakeholder engagement platforms, NCA and its partners will build bridges between rights holders and duty bearers (government and companies) which will contribute to increasing civil society voice and participation.

4. Added value

To secure entrepreneurial opportunities and sustainable employment this programme relies on a diverse partner base, where the interplay of faith-based actors, resource partners and private sector is the key driver of change.

Faith-based organisations (FBOs) constitute the core of this approach and their rootedness and networks provide legitimacy and wide outreach to organise and mobilise communities for collective action. While FBOs are rarely experts on business models and market analysis, their strong linkages to the grassroots enables them to play a key role in addressing market barriers to business development and value chain development. Many of our faith-based partners have a strong tradition and competence in supporting vocational training, and are well placed to facilitate dialogue between teaching institutions (e.g. vocational training centres) and the labour market and potential employers.

An added value of NCA in this programme will be to make use of various resource organisations and to match the contextual knowledge of our faith-based partners with competence on enterprise development and value addition. NCA seeks to explore new models of cooperation by engaging with private actors to fully explore the potential within entrepreneurship and value chain development. Beyond technical competence and experience, new private sector partnerships can enable linkages between rights holders and markets, employment opportunities and access to capital.

5. Integration of gender equality and youth in programming

This programme contributes to enhancing gender equality as unemployed or underemployed women are one of the key target groups in the programme and women’s economic empowerment is inherent in the main interventions. This programme also secures the involvement of youth as unemployed or underemployed youth (boys and girls) will be a key target group in the main intervention “vocational education and employability”. Also within “entrepreneurship and enterprise development”, unemployed or underemployed youth will be part of target group.

Read also results from our Global Report 2015