ORT Chile is embarking on an ambitious project to train 20,000 small business-owners in entrepreneurial skills.
It has been approached by the Coca-Cola Foundation to implement Emprende, a major online training programme which aims to give the owners of corner shops and kiosks, common in poorer neighbourhoods, the tools to modernise and expand.
Such businesses are typically family-run and are a critically important part of the economic and social structure of communities across Chile.
“They are a way for people with no formal qualifications to make a living and provide employment and they also extend lines of credit for locals who would not be eligible for a bank account. But they are losing out to supermarkets and so need help if they are to remain in business,”? said Marcelo Lewkow, the Executive Director of ORT Chile.
The greatest challenge is the sheer scale of the project “ﾓ the aim is to recruit 5,000 people in the first year and a total of 20,000 by the end of the second year of operations. If successful, the project may be extended “ﾓ and inspire similar schemes around the world.
“This is a new way of approaching masses of people, most of whom have not even finished high school, and sets an example of how to use the internet to implement grass-roots social change,”? Mr Lewkow said.
He explained that the project will progress in three steps: first, to offer guidance in taking a more entrepreneurial approach to business; second, to help participants choose a business opportunity that fits their needs; and finally participants will design their own profitable project which can be financed through low-cost loans made possible thanks to special arrangements secured by ORT and Coca-Cola with local banks.
The website, which will form the hub of the learning process, is being developed and a call centre will be set up to provide individual support for trainees. But before anything can happen, people will have to be recruited into the programme, and Coca-Cola’s extensive distribution network will provide the means to reach out to potential beneficiaries to ensure that they are informed.
The cooperation between Coca-Cola and ORT Chile goes back 15 years through the TAVEC project, which has seen more than 150 laboratories installed in schools, most of which serve poor neighbourhoods. The project has provided learning opportunities for thousands of children but has never been featured on Chilean television.
The fact that Coca-Cola has approached ORT Chile to design, implement, monitor and optimise Emprende is sign of the trust that has built up during that partnership.
“It is a great vote of confidence in ORT’s ability to deliver,”? Mr Lewkow said. “The challenge is great but the rewards of success will be immense.”?
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said that ORT Chile had a well-earned reputation for efficiency and effectiveness.
“ORT Chile is an organisation which is always at peak performance,”? Mr Singer said. “It is easy to see why the Coca-Cola Foundation trusts them with such a challenging, innovative project. It is gratifying to see that ORT Chile and the Foundation continue to work together towards our common goals.”?