Business model for a Community Development Center with ICT and entrepreneurial courses

by Sekimpi Emmanuel

Visitor Question: I am having a challenge of coming up with a social business model canvas to understand how the business at a center that has already been established will operate.

My organisation has put up a centre in a very remote area in Uganda with the hope of uplifting the quality of life of people living in those areas. Our goal is to have students who will graduate with employable skills in IT (information technology) or are able to start up their own enterprises in the field of ICT (information and communications technology). We just have the centre, but the plan of how activities will flow and making the business sense of the whole centre is still a challenge. How do I go about it? Thank you.

Editors Respond: We don't think there is any one right answer for this. None of us are experts on Africa and none of us have visited Uganda, although one is keen to do so!

Having stated these cautions, we will give you a few ideas to think about. In the U.S. there are two main approaches to funding something like this. First we explore government funding, and we think you should do the same. Your national government certainly has an interest in increasing employment and in the social stability that results when people have their basic needs met. Most governments are pretty certain about what they will and will not fund, to tell the truth, but it certainly does not hurt to ask.

If you can travel to the capital to sit down in person with a government representative, that is always best. If that person says there is no money for this, ask them for advice about how to find the money. We always advise community groups to make sure to ask for ideas when they receive a negative response. Most people will respond with an honest answer, and sometimes their suggestions will be valuable.

If you must have the conversation with the government representative by webcam or even by e-mail, you might want to send some information in advance of the scheduled conversation. If people are not sitting across the desk from you, it is too easy to say no, and to offer no suggestions. Send a good presentation in writing before you talk.

Second, we are going back to the U.S. example. Sometimes when there is no government money for a project, we go to a large business or corporation that would have an interest in the project. For example, if we have a health related social project that we want to do, we might ask a large private hospital for funding help.

In your case, the businesses that would employ the people you train would be your target businesses to ask for money to help fund the program. Identify what those businesses would be. Also since you mention entrepreneurship, identify existing businesses that might benefit from the existence of a new business that either would buy products from the start-up or furnish materials to the start-up.

Then visit the businesses to explain your training process, the credentials of the people who will be conducting the training, and what your organization will need to be able to afford to do the training. Ask directly for funding. If they are reluctant to provide money in advance, ask if they will give you a fee for every graduate of your program that they employ. Or in the case of entrepreneurs, see what you can work out with existing businesses.

Those would be our two best ideas for how to set up a business model. Often in the U.S. we have to combine two or three different funding streams in order to support a program. If you cannot figure it out, you might have to look at how other activities of your community development centre might produce income that you could use for the ICT program.

Good luck to you, and we would be interested in hearing about your results.

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