Partnering for change

Norwegian organization helps create sustainable solutions around the world

Woman holding a plate of food.

Photo: Heather Nippard / courtesy of YangonBakehouse
Apprentices at YangonBakehouse learn about working in food service along with other life skills.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Partnership for Change (PfC) is a Norwegian not-for-profit organization and a member of the European Venture Philanthropy Association. The organization works to ensure economic independence for women and youth with a view to contributing to sustainable communities. The head office is in Oslo, with projects in Myanmar and Ethiopia.

Philanthropist and social entrepreneur Ingrid Stange established PfC in 2012 and is dedicated to fostering a greater culture of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in Norway. She holds a degree from the Norwegian School of Economics and an MBA from UC Berkeley with a background from McKinsey & Co. and Venture Capital.

People with the knowledge and willingness to establish new businesses play an important role in development. Many entrepreneurs have good ideas that are built on broad knowledge of local conditions. To turn an idea into reality, however, most people also require both financing and operational support. PfC can help. They work directly with entrepreneurs in selected countries.

One of the women they have helped found the special entrepreneurship program after she dropped out of school and tried to make a living from small sewing jobs, which proved difficult. The program gave her new skills, self-confidence, and faith in her own abilities. After completing the program, she won an employment contract with a café bar and is now her family’s main breadwinner.

Together with partners at the local and national levels, PfC identifies needs and arrives at the best solution. Their contribution is multi faceted; they provide strategic and operational support, as transferring expertise is a crucial aspect of development work. Their financial contribution is based on a pragmatic principle whereby they provide donations, loans, guaranties, and direct investments, depending on what will be most effective in each project. If appropriate, they involve other partners. Once a project is able to stand on its own, they withdraw from active involvement or bring in investors.

PfC has partnered with a women’s livelihood program in the food and beverage industry in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. This organization, YangonBakehouse, runs a vocational training program with job placement upon graduation for marginalized women as their social component and operates cafés and catering businesses as training venues and revenue-generation in support of the program. The women recruited for the program complete a seven-month course, providing them not only vocational training in baking, food production, and restaurant services but also critical life skills, including English, financial management, reproductive health and nutrition, and civil participation.

In the past few years, Myanmar has become increasingly global, and in particular the country’s largest city has experienced an increase in the number of expats who demand certain products and services. The four women who established the program realized the industry’s need for trained staff in Yangon would increase, fueled by a market demand for Western-style food offerings and customer service. These market demands provided an opportunity to include more women in the formal labor force, as well as a method to partially fund the program through retail operations. Since establishing the startup in late 2012, the program operates a public café and two café kiosks, along with catering services. PfC partnered with YangonBakehouse early in PfC’s entry to Myanmar with bi-directional information sharing, linkages, and sharing of volunteer resources to mutual benefit.

The program entrepreneurs’ cooperation with PfC included a loan, which enabled them to set up a café kiosk in the reception area of the Norwegian telephone company Telenor’s Myanmar headquarters. PfC also assisted in linking YangonBakehouse with the Norwegian restaurant group Drueklasen AS, which has contributed to the startup’s professional development through its CSR program. PfC’s contribution was made possible through financial contribution from the Norwegian Løge Foundation. To date, YangonBakehouse has graduated and placed 59 women in employment with 13 currently in the program.

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 20, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Rasmus Falck

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo.

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