With roughly 1.5 years left in the pilot, the BIF team met in Dhaka last week to review progress and agree on implementation strategies for the coming years. After an initial meeting in London last year, many of the country team members based in our five pilot countries, UK based team members, alliance partners and DFID met for the first time.
Country managers shared project case studies based on the current BIF project portfolio and exchanged ideas on how to best reach potential new business partners and how to better share learnings across the team (the BIF team has a skype group now for instance...).
In addition to these and other more practical issues, interesting discussions on similarities and differences emerged, for example why a “facebook for farmers” is considered as a good idea to connect farmers in India but might be less effective in Malawi; how interest and participation on our Practitioner Hub from our Bangladesh project partners is much higher than in other countries (visit the Bangladesh network for evidence!).
One of the highlights during the week was the signing ceremony for the Agora project, a new BIF project in Bangladesh.
Agora is an expanding chain of retail outlets in Bangladesh, run by Rahimafrooz Superstores Ltd. (RSL).
As it expands, the company aims to build the capacity of small and medium fresh produce suppliers and develop robust supply chains and trading relationships.
On the fifth day our local Bangladesh team in collaboration with CARE Bangladesh organised a BIF field trip (including BIF team T-Shirts to ensure nobody got lost) to visit the BIF supported rural sales programme (RSP) 3/4 hours North of Dhaka in Sadat Bazar, Korotia, Tangail.
The project aims to generate income and employment opportunities for the rural poor and a rural sales-force comprising local women (called Aparajitas - a Bengali word that stands for "women who never accept defeat").
CARE Bangladesh set up RSP as a pilot in 2004 and BIF support now aims to facilitate the transformation of RSP into a For-Profit Social Enterprise. During our trip we visited one of the local Hubs from which products are distributed and one of the Aparajitas who then sell the products in rural villages
A three day partnership training workshop organised by BIF Alliance partner IBLF's Partnering Initiative concluded our stay in Dhaka. Watch the this space for more news about the training and other highlights from a hot, spicy and inspiring time in Bangladesh.
Pictures: (c) Business Inovation Facility
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