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Community enterprises overseas

Developing international communities through business
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Some of our International Communities funding has supported micro-enterprises and small scale business development to tackle poverty. These projects focus on pro-poor economic growth and can help develop sustainable businesses to support communities.

Our study of these projects helps us to understand what the challenges can be and how these can be best addressed. Here we share what we’ve learnt with you.


We’ve seen that businesses working in marginalised, rural areas face a range of difficulties such as:

  • extreme environments
  • deforestation and soil erosion
  • limited education and under-developed skills
  • poorly developed markets
  • limited access to credit
  • infrastructural weakness
  • corruption and poor links to governments.

These factors can constrain micro and small business growth.

Other obstacles faced by some of our projects include:

  • slow bureaucratic hurdles when dealing with local governments
  • misaligned delivery expectations between UK grant holders and overseas partners
  • poorly developed communication services
  • overseas staff turnover and unexpected events.

Supportive solutions

It's the extra income that can get them through the uncertainties of climate drought and food insecurity, that can keep their kids in school, that keep things from falling into povertyConsidered approaches can help address some of the challenges listed above. Despite funding a diverse range of projects, we can see some common themes in successful approaches. Targeting three key areas for development has helped many projects succeed:

  1. Human capital through training programmes
  2. Social capital through community mobilisation and forming groups
  3. Financial capital through supplying equipment, livestock, grants, loans and access to credit and saving opportunities.

Including improved marketing strategies and environmental conservation also helped focus some projects.

Environmental challenges

Key ways that some of our projects have responded to climate change and environmental challenges are:

  • agricultural innovation such as irrigation
  • green manuring and crop rotation
  • growing drought-resistant and flood-resilient crops.

Diversifying away from monocrop agriculture has boosted a war torn economy in Eastern Sri LankaDiversification of livelihoods has also been an important aspect of our programmes. It helps communities withstand environmental disasters and reduces pressure on land resources. It can also lead to improved nutrition and food security.


Lots of our projects took a holistic approach. This means there can be a wide range of impacts, broadly grouped as:

Social impacts which can lead to improvements in:

  • education
  • health
  • confidence and optimism
  • keeping families together.

Infrastructural development which can lead to improvements in:

  • roads
  • water supply
  • energy supply.

Empowerment impacts which were evident by:

  • targeting women as key beneficiaries
  • advocacy and the emergence of women holding positions of responsibilities in groups and committees.

More about the research

We commissioned the Policy Studies Institute and School of Oriental and African Studies to evaluate the impact of our overseas community enterprise funding. They studied 30 projects which support micro and small business development in marginalised communities.

The full report is available below.


Impact of BIG funding of community enterprise overseas report