The COVID-19 crisis is testing the resiliency of our existing basic systems, from healthcare, social protection, education, value chains, to financial markets. Impact investment in communities is needed now more than ever to address the quickly changing and unevenly distributed health and economic consequences of the global pandemic. This makes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) more relevant today; it is time for the actors in the social impact sector to collaborate closely for a sustainable and resilient tomorrow.
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) is the international development and humanitarian agency of the Anglican Church of Canada and has been in the forefront to rebuild and work together for a sustainable future. PWRDF’s vision is for a world that is truly just, healthy and peaceful. In this past year of a pandemic and as we go forward, PWRDF is seeing just how much our world needs justice, peace and health.
PWRDF has been associated with and following Oikocredit’s work for over a decade. PWRDF is a member, an investor and a promoter of the results of Oikocredit to our donors, supporters and PWRDF staff. Over the years, we have seen many memberships, coalitions and collaborative work pieces that clamor for our attention.
Working as a PWRDF’s Executive Director, and a member of the Board of the Oikocredit Canada Support Association, I have closely watched the work initiated by Oikocredit team. Here are the three areas that emerge as key to Oikocredit’s success and effective sustainable development around the world:
First, the simple but compelling and collaborative character of how Oikocredit works together and learns together draws on the wisdom and insights of so many members, partners, women and men from around the world. There is an ecumenical foundation that embraces human rights, a deep care for the planet and a bold engagement with financial structures and institutions that are integral to building capacity of cooperatives in developing countries that champion lasting and inclusive approaches for those most in need.
Second is an effective and proven business model, one refined over 45 years that delivers both for investors and for low-income people to improve their livelihoods. It’s a business model that delivers what the world needs and deserves: sustainable agriculture, renewable and clean energy and financial inclusion. This model promotes, essentially, a fairer participation for the poor, a clearing away of obstacles and constraints (such as lack of access to affordable capital or business planning skills) and a building of capacity that responds to priorities and needs of end clients in the Global South. It’s a business model that demonstrates accountability, stability, effective risk management and transparency as well, to investors, regulators and the many supporters of Oikocredit, including PWRDF. My experience in international humanitarian aid and development over 30 years has shown me that an investment in planning and capacity building is an investment in empowerment, especially so when the voices and priorities of communities and cooperatives in the Global South are elevated and capacity building is locally led.
Stories of Change
Third, there are the important stories of change that are made possible because of all of our work together. I celebrate (and shout-out about!) the work of Fourth Partner Energy in India equipping hospitals and schools with rooftop solar installations. I am encouraged by the work of Cenfrocafe in Peru that helps coffee farmers access finance and markets, improve soil management practices and receive more sustainable prices for their product. Having lived for many years in East Africa, it is wonderful how Oikocredit’s support extends to Musoni Kenya Microfinance to ensure transparency, improve product pricing and embed principles of client protection. Oikocredit’s support to Musoni Kenya Microfinance in 2020 and 2021 included the Oikocredit Coronavirus Solidarity Fund to allow Musoni to weather this challenging time and ensure that gains made to date are not lost.
Stories of change – significant change, lasting change – are what PWRDF sees as integral to our mandate. Safe births, clean water, women’s empowerment, care for creation, walking alongside of refugees globally and in Canada, increased crop yields and strong partners – partners that can continue to implement impactful programs even after PWRDF funds would end.
Over the past ten years, PWRDF has transferred strategic reserve funds to Oikocredit, recognizing the lasting value of investments and the importance of effective cooperatives and community organizations – essentially, a vibrant civil society.
In 2021, PWRDF is learning as to how we can do more to enable Canadians who may wish to donate to PWRDF, supporting responsible investment and in so doing, realizing our vision for a truly just, healthy and peaceful world. Such a scenario, a growing reality, of Canadians supporting Oikocredit, a social impact investor and a worldwide cooperative, would surely be a journey worth taking towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. And a story worth telling.