Can building businesses really help build peace in post-conflict communities? That’s the idea behind Bpeace, an international NGO that hopes their work helping women entrepreneurs grow their businesses will have a multiplying effect on the communities that surround them. Bpeace believes that the key to creating more peaceful societies is by giving people the most basic tool they need to take care of themselves and their families – a job.
What is Bpeace?
Bpeace, founded in 2002, is a nonprofit network of business professionals who volunteer their time to teach business skills to promising entrepreneurs in conflict-affected countries. Bpeace, short for the Business Council for Peace, believes that “more jobs mean less violence.” Not only does their New York City location provide them easy access to numerous multi-national corporations, non-governmental organizations and foundations, it also provides them a direct line to the fashion industry – essential because the majority of the jobs they help create involve textiles, jewelry, and other boutique items.
Bpeace has the lofty goal of creating 1 million jobs across 1,000 communities across the globe. Bpeace believes those jobs will have a transformative effect on both the communities, helping to lift them out of poverty by creating jobs, strengthening supporting businesses and increasing purchasing power, and the individuals that live in them, enabling families to buy food and other necessities, educate their children and obtain adequate health care.
How Does Bpeace Work?
Bpeace works by forming strategic partnerships with corporations, foundations, academic institutions and other global organizations. They recently teamed up with the Clinton Global Initiative to launch the One Million Jobs for Peace program. The program pairs volunteers from a number of different corporations with promising entrepreneurs in one of the three countries Bpeace is currently working in: Afghanistan, Rwanda and El Salvador.
Corporate partners can participate in one of two ways – either by making a financial contribution to support Bpeace and the One Million Jobs program, or they can choose to utilize the expertise of their staff as skill-based volunteers who provide direct consultation and mentoring to entrepreneurs in communities abroad.
So who are these entrepreneurs they are working with? Bpeace calls them Fast Runners. Fast Runners are handpicked through a very competitive search process. Most of them have a business that already has a significant impact on their community. Once selected, Fast Runners undergo a rigorous three-year long program that includes special trainings, one-on-one consultation with volunteer business professionals, advocacy and access to markets they might not reach otherwise.
Fatima is one of Bpeace’s Fast Runners. Fatima is just finishing up her three-year stint with Bpeace. She runs a furniture manufacturing company, which Bpeace helped her grow and expand, which produces over 80 Afghani women. Before working for Fatima, all of the women were illiterate and untrained. Her success inspired her daughter, Shahla, to start her own business designing and producing shoes.
Jeanne and Sylvie, two Fast Runners from Rwanda who are working together, are working with Bpeace to found the Beauty School of Rwanda, which will be the first vocational school of its kind in the country. Once up and running, the school will train 30 students each year in a year-long intensive training program that will also help students gain business skills they will need to run their own salons.
How Can You Help?
You can help Bpeace by making a tax-deductible contribution. The organization also has a number of ways for individuals and businesses to volunteer. You can find a list of some of the current opportunities here.