Global Communities owns Vitas Group, the largest international network of microfinance institutions in the Middle East, with major operations in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza, as well as institutions in Romania, Ghana and Egypt, all offering small loans to families and entrepreneurs left out of the formal financial sector. Since 2004, Vitas companies have disbursed more than $3 billion to over 1 million customers with an annual default rate below two percent.
In addition, Global Communities supports over 600,000 women-led savings groups in Africa, the Americas and India. These community-based groups provide participants who cannot access formal financial institutions with a safe place to save money and access small loans, providing the capital they need to start a business or invest in education. Beyond the economic benefits, savings groups also provide members with opportunities to gain leadership, public speaking and other key skills which enable them to take an active role in improving the lives of their families and communities.
Economic opportunity is the bridge between an idea and a business, and helps drive job creation, resilience and growth. Global Communities supports entrepreneurs with business ideas of all sizes, from a backyard chicken coop to a global solar energy distributor.
Leveling the Playing Field for Digital Transformation
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the existing trend toward digitization of all types of services, from the way we communicate to the way we shop and pay for goods. The move to digital reached savings groups as well, offering new products from digital record keeping to fully digitized financial transactions. While access and ownership of digital technology, including smartphones, has increased around the world, women are often left behind and can miss out on the benefits of digitization.
Global Communities is leading efforts to ensure this shift to digital savings groups recognizes and addresses the barriers facing women’s digital financial inclusion, so they can fully benefit from these new opportunities. Building on work done introducing a mobile app to savings groups in Tanzania with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and DreamStart Labs, a financial technology firm, Global Communities is developing new tools for gender intentional digitization of savings groups. With the support of the FAHU Foundation, Global Communities is creating a new online global destination for digital savings groups. Digital savings groups help members save time, increase transparency and access new financial services, and with the right tools and support, digital savings groups can ensure women as well as men enjoy the benefits of new tools and technologies.
The Vitas Lab launched in 2020 to test new ideas and drive responsible finance innovation, create new products and identify new partnerships. Vitas Group is also investing in new technology and ambitious digitization initiatives, working to develop and deliver end-to-end digital lending platforms to clients around the world.
Proven Paths to Financial Independence
Global Communities’ Women Empowered (WE) program is an evidence-based social and economic empowerment platform that enables women to save money, develop financial literacy and invest in income-generating activities. In addition to increasing women’s access to financial services, WE groups offer members opportunities to build social capital, increase self-efficacy and embark on individual and collective action.
The combined focus on social and economic advancement positions group members as leaders and decision-makers in their households and communities. WE groups have been formed in 13 countries through 46 projects. Since 2008, approximately 192,910 women and men have joined 9,654 WE groups across Africa and the Americas, saving more than $6.8 million, of which $6.3 million has been given in loans.
I feel very happy to be part of this group and to have learned a way to get ahead.
WE group participant, Guatemala
Global Communities approaches economic opportunity from the bottom up, working to connect entrepreneurs with the capital they need to grow. By supporting business leaders of all genders and backgrounds, Global Communities breaks down barriers to financial inclusion.
Growing through Partnerships
Global Communities partners with financial institutions, governments, civil society and other non-governmental organizations to advance economic opportunity everywhere we work. A few examples of these partnerships include:
- Global Communities is partnering with Promundo to introduce their Journeys of Transformation curriculum to women in savings groups and their partners and husbands. This gender-transformative approach challenges harmful gender attitudes and provides opportunities to redefine what it means to be a supportive partner.
- Vitas Lab designed and launched its first pilot in supply chain financing with Toters, a Lebanese delivery app, to expand credit access for thousands of merchants in Lebanon and drivers in Iraq.
- Global Communities is a global implementing partner for Gap Inc.’s Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) curriculum. It complements the skills learned in the WE curriculum and includes four modules on communication; problem-solving and decision-making; time use and stress management; and water, sanitation and health. To date, more than 10,000 WE group members in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Tanzania have graduated from the training.
- Global Communities partners with Burundi Friends International to support youth and women coffee farmers as they build their own futures in Burundi.