The Guild of Women Entrepreneurs:
A Guild: An association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal derived from the medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power. (Oxford English Dictionary)
- A self-sustaining network of women entrepreneurs in Jordan focussed on creative industries, e-commerce and SME development, creating wealth and jobs through innovation and leadership training.
- The Guild to be self-sustaining through membership subscriptions, equity stakes in successful enterprises and sponsorship from multinational corporations and donors.
- The Guild will make women’s economic activity more legible to policy makers, will encourage women to engage in business, especially but not exclusively e-commerce, will coach the entrepreneurs in leadership and strategic planning skills and will act as a voice for women in business in national, regional and ultimately global forums.
- A model that can replicated in other Arab countries.
Context and Project Summary
The programme proposed here will build on the meetings and conferences held as part of the Deauville Partnership with Arab Countries in Transition and build on the conclusions reached at the G8 Conference on the role of women in business and the economy.
Despite the fact that Arab women have the lowest recorded employment rates globally, this is an unfair reflection on the level of economic activity by women within the region. There is a need for leadership in drawing more women in to formal economic activity and a community that will allow women to maximise the power of their voice in influencing the regulatory framework to support enterprise. Moreover, commerce is moving into the virtual world but the bulk of economic activity continues to take place through conventional selling of goods and services. It is important to recognise that the development of e-commerce represents a revolutionary opportunity for women in the Islamic world to be economically empowered. A number of small scale enterprises have already come into existence with Arab women combining their traditional economic activity including baking and jewellery making, and using the digital medium to raise the profile and outreach of their businesses. Many more conventional women entrepreneurs could make greater use of e commerce. The proposed programme aims to capitalise on this development, blending tradition with the modern digital component.
Women across the globe are increasingly featuring in e-commerce start-ups, encouraged by the low cost of entry and the autonomy and personal space provided by the medium. There is immense demand for training and development in this sector across the Middle East. The entire region is adopting mobile technology faster than any other region of the world. At the same time it has the lowest recorded numbers of women in employment globally. By combining the digital element with more traditional economic activity, women in these states of transition have the chance to build sustainable businesses benefitting both the wider economy and their own livelihoods. This historic opportunity will only be seized if they can operate the systems that enable commerce and only if they can utilise or provide the professional services needed to run these businesses safely. For this they need a regulatory environment that protects transactions, a legal framework that ensures intellectual property is rewarded and business development advice at all stages of the product or service creation process from initial concept to marketing. They will also need to build and demonstrate leadership and confidence in the potential of their role in the new economy.
Working with stakeholders from government and the private sector, the implementing partners will promote a UK residential Women Entrepreneurs Fellowship for Jordanian women. The Fellowship will be open to women who are involved or who would like to be involved in conventional business as well as e-commerce. Interested applicants will be asked to submit a business plan proposal for an enterprise that will employ a minimum of 20 people when established. The application process will be run by the donor in-country who will have the target of generating a long a list of 200 good quality applications. 100of the best applicants will then be given free places at a weekend convention, featuring presentations by UK entrepreneurs, digital/e-commerce companies, branding experts and successful entrepreneurs and investors. They will also receive a workshop in the form of a “Dragon’s Den” pitching interview and marketing brain storm with UK business experts. From this, 30 individuals will be invited to the UK to participate in a 2 week Fellowship focusing on leadership, business planning, e-commerce and networking. These 30 Fellows will also be introduced to the Guild concept and taught how to create the Guild model in Jordan; this Guild will take over the running of the annual application cycle for the in-country workshops judging business plans and, as the Guild develops, selecting projects to invest in. Each participant will also be encouraged to act as an Ambassador for the Guild concept in other countries.
Thus the programme proposed here will create an integrated team who will design and deliver training and awareness raising programmes across the interconnected aspects of empowering women to make money from e commerce, framing legal and administrative structures that promote growth of the e economy while protecting cultural norms, and providing the inspiration and skills needed for conventional entrepreneurship. They will do this through the vehicle of a Guild.
An intensive marketing campaign, ongoing mentoring and facilitation of partnerships with key private sector networks will support the impact, scale and financial sustainability of the initiative. For e commerce to develop it will be necessary to lobby government for reforms to legal frameworks and the Guild will need to be aware of the international regulatory framework and the regional Guild will need to develop a public affairs capacity to help shape international law in these areas. The aim would be for the project to be self-financing as a Guild membership organization at the end of two years and for the Guild to be seeing returns on its investments in new business ideas by the end of year three.
- The Guild will run an annual cycle of Business Plan workshops, leadership training, provide a hub for foreign direct investment, establish benchmarks of best practice, promote international standards of human rights and business and run product assessment and prize giving programmes.
- The Guild will also conduct business planning assessments and develop entrepreneurship, professionalism and sustainability of small and medium sized firms with a focus on e-commerce.
- It will require certain standards to be a member of the Guild and the Guild will be self-governing and will ultimately aim to be self-financing.
- The Guild will develop expertise in lobbying to influence policy and regulation in enterprise and e commerce areas.
- Applicants for the Fellowship programme will be asked to submit a Business Plan proposal.
- The best business plans will be judged and the winners will attend a weekend workshop including leadership coaching.
- The best attendees will be then be selected to come on a two week residential Fellowship to plan and design the Guild for implementation.
- The exact design of the Guild will be developed by the initial membership.
- The rules of progression, the content of training and development programmes, the management of the Guild, the judging of local shows and awards will be managed by the founding members of the Guild with national and regional chairs holding office by election, having special chains of office and awarding medals for excellence in goods or services and business management.
- The Guilds will be a learning network that is self-sustaining through small subscriptions from members and subsidies from larger companies, suppliers and other donors including government and international organisations.
- Bursaries will be made available for attendance at training programmes.
- All aspects of training will be developed on a training-the-trainers basis and ultimately delivered on a peer-to-peer mentoring system by members of the Guild.
This flow will then be repeating on an annual basis to build the membership of the Guild, ensure that there is a growing community who can do business and articulate their policy needs.
Repeating annual cycles
This is an ambitious project that mobilizes international expertise in organizational design, and education and training on behalf of women entrepreneurs in Jordan initially and then in the wider region. The initial engagement with the team from the implementing partners will be to train a local management team who will work with key stakeholders to design and run the Guild. The training element at each level and the formalizing of membership – through chains of office, prize ceremonies and codes of ethics etc., encapsulate a professional ethos founded on entrepreneurship. The combination of good professional practice and status reward for entrepreneurship, produce a virtuous cycle of development.
This proposal is derived from three different contemporary developments:
(a) Vocational and Life Learning practice,
(b) Knowledge-Based Economic Growth and
(c) Alumni-Driven Learning Networks.
When brought together, these will address the core needs of women who have established or who are seeking to establish, small and medium sized firms in key economic sectors. Extensive research by the World Bank and other international agencies has identified skills-based training at the grass roots level as a vital element in sustainable economic development and to encourage and extend women’s participation in economic activity. Lifelong learning, learning in the workplace and other such schemes and concepts exist but there is plenty of scope for assisting the existing programmes in linking them up more efficiently with the business people who need these skills. The Guild is not intended to duplicate or replace existing programmes but rather to be an aid to the delivery of training and a self-help community to ensure that best practice is communicated effectively at the grass roots level, that women are introduced to the latest developments in e commerce and that a professional body develops that can present a coherent case to government and global policy makers.
Globally, networks of learning and trust communities are increasingly being seen as important engines of economic growth and development. Professional organisations can spread best practice in fast and efficient ways amongst their members and can lobby government, suppliers and large customers as a group entity that is more powerful than a single voice. They can also encourage the use of professional services, for example accountants and lawyers. The take up of professional services is another global indicator of development and a measure of lack of corruption in business practices. This proposal seeks to bring these different elements together in the design of a Guild membership that the business people will want to have. The Guild will build a learning network that spreads the knowledge that they need and form a network for sharing best practice that contributes to sustainable growth for an ever increasing population of women entrepreneurs, all of them using the latest of technology and some basing their businesses in new e commerce sectors.