Groner Foundation summer research students assist economic development

Four students from the Department of Economics and Business conducted research this summer to assist two organizations in serving low-income people around the world. Akua Agyei ’15 and Ariana Rincon ’14 served as “youth enterprise” curriculum consultants for Andean Aid, which offers students a safe, clean environment for doing homework. And, a study of savings groups for Bright Hope International was conducted by Ariane Uwamba ’15 and Mbakisi (MB) Gopolang ’14.

Improving employment skills and entrepreneurial opportunities for young people in Venezuela and Colombia was the summer research focus of Agyei and Rincon, funded by the Grace Elizabeth Groner Foundation.

With millions of children facing economic independence at a very young age due to poverty, war, and AIDS, youth enterprise programs provide: (1) job skills, and (2) training for starting and operating a business. In their meeting with Andean Aid board members, Agyei and Rincon offered strategies for integrating business skills, career competencies, technical training, and financial education into Andean Aid’s existing programs. 

Also funded by the Grace Elizabeth Groner Foundation was a study of savings groups for Bright Hope International conducted by Uwamba and Gopolang. Bright Hope assists the extreme poor by delivering food, health care, and education, along with economic development opportunities, in the form of micro-loans, and spiritual guidance through under-resourced, indigenous churches.

In recent years, microfinance services have expanded. Savings groups provide people in difficult economic situations, not served by banks, with an alternative for accumulating capital. These community-based, self-managed groups result in improved empowerment of women and enhanced economic development.

Research by Uwamba and Gopolang included interviews in-person, by phone, and by Skype, with key findings presented to Bright Hope staff members. The students concluded that savings groups could enhance the quality of life of the people served in Kenya, Zambia, and Bolivia. They advocate a model that involves educating group members on savings and connecting the savings groups to micro-enterprises (income generating activities) to help maximize economic potential.