Economic Empowerment

According to the World Resource Institute (WRI), the world has about 4 billion people living at the BoP. These people may not have access to markets to sell the products they produce, buy goods and services that they need or appropriate livelihoods that match their skills or pay enough for them to make a meaningful living. In Bangladesh, according to the BoP criteria, more than 100 million people belong to the group. Even though the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have shown impressive progress, without the means of sustainable development and inclusive growth, the world may have 600 million people without access to safe water, 1 billion people earning less than US$1.25 a day and many more urgent challenges by 2015 according to the MDGs Progress Report 2012. Non-inclusion of this 'forgotten' mass at the BoP not only makes poverty alleviation difficult but also deprives businesses of sustainable sourcing in an environment of fast depleting natural resources, low cost labor, and an untapped market that according to WRI, holds unmet needs of US$ 5 trillion, globally.

CARE Bangladesh has a long all encompassing presence in Bangladesh exceeding six decades starting from the grassroots up to policy interventions. CARE Bangladesh maintains its focus on 3 distinct marginalized and vulnerable groups that are often subject to unequal power relations. CARE Bangladesh's portfolio of over thirty projects addresses the problems of all four groups with support from a myriad of conventional donors.

The Private Sector Engagement (PSE) strategy of CARE Bangladesh however heightens the role of the private sector in fostering inclusive growth by 'inclusion' of all the four impact groups into relevant business processes. We at PSE recognize the importance of 'doing business with the BoP' to have sustained impacts on the lives of the poor and the marginalized and work on building pro-poor value chains that engage the BoP as producers, workers and consumers. Through PSE, we have formed effective partnerships with nearly twenty five private sector organizations and during FY11 - 14 managed a portfolio of about US$ 12 million touching about 150,000 lives.

PSE's approach of building inclusive business for inclusive growth works with cutting edge innovation building on a model that focuses on production: rural sourcing and aggregation by including poor agricultural producers or farmers in business value chains; income: worker empowerment by building the productivity and rights awareness of poor, semiskilled workers mainly in the Ready Made Garments (RMG) industry besides others; and consumption: marketing and distribution of products and services needed by the BoP. Involvement of the private sector is initially through 'social investment' which are one time philanthropic projects but such partnerships often evolve into engagements that are embedded into 'core business' and that is the goal we seek to attain. In order to enable the BoP's participation into high value business value chains, our projects also work to reduce bottlenecks such as access to finance, information and technology and helps micro, small and medium (MSMEs) grow. The work is continually supported with research and advocacy that has benefitted from affiliations with Said Business School of Oxford University, Ross Business School of University of Michigan and Harvard Business School.

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