From large corporations to small nonprofits, professionals know that making smart investments in their workforce can pay dividends. The microenterprise industry is no different. Unfortunately, for many organizations providing public goods or services, strapped budgets and limited staffing often means that the “luxuries” of things like staff development simply have to take a back seat.
As the industry continues to grow and mature, a real need to invest in its human capital has arisen. FIELD at the Aspen Institute and the Capital One Foundation have sought to fill that need by launching a leadership development program designed to invest in the industry’s young leaders, with the goal of seeing an exponential return on that investment. The Emerging Leaders in Microbusiness Squared Program (ELM²) served an inaugural class of 11 fellows in 2013, and recently kicked off its second class of 2014 fellows (pictured). Through tailored training, mentoring, networking, and other professional and financial supports, ELM² aims to create real change in the current and future microenterprise industry by investing in these young leaders.
The program seeks to cultivate young leaders like Vanessa Carter, who leads the Lend for America initiative, a national network of microenterprise organizations led by university students. Through the ELM² program, she will be working on a crucial visioning and planning process for her network. Another fellow, Alex Dang, from the California microfinance organization Opportunity Fund, will be working on launching and scaling up an innovative business loan product called EasyPay.
All were selected through a competitive application process, and all show true potential for executive leadership, and commitment to creating opportunity for aspiring and disadvantaged entrepreneurs. The fellows will participate in events and meetings with thought leaders, funders, investors, and CEOs, giving them invaluable insight and perspective on new business models and strategies. They will participate in both in-person convenings and virtual events, including an opportunity to learn from the Capital One Innovation Lab in San Francisco.
By investing in both professional skills and personal commitment, a program like ELM² seeks to support the industry in building and strengthening its precious human capital.
Visit the ELM² website to learn more about the fellowship program.
Joyce Klein is the director of Aspen Institute Microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination (FIELD).