Entrepreneurship may be one of the buzzwords of the 21st century, but self-sufficiency is a concept common to all cultures that has been around for centuries. There’s a reason why pinpointing the origin of the famous “teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” proverb is hard. It hits the nail on the head and it’s precisely what small business development volunteer abroad programs are about.
Many communities in developing countries already know the value of owning their businesses. It can improve the financial independence of women in communities where female members are primarily seen as child bearers, not providers. It can allow an economic crisis-stricken country to find alternative and legitimate ways of getting back on its feet. It can become a peaceful weapon against corruption and criminality.
By taking part in a small business development volunteer abroad program, you’ll become one of the cogs in a global wheel of change.
Where to Volunteer in Small Business Development
Wherever you choose to volunteer abroad, small business development doesn’t change much in its core. You still have to address basic business tasks like accounting, marketing, or, in some cases, raising initial funding. By going overseas to do this, you’ll also gain practical knowledge about the local culture and how business is done in foreign countries. These are first-hand insights you can use later in your studies or your career. Are there different approaches to marketing? What do these future entrepreneurs call growth? How do they look at wealth?
After the economic crisis that hit the country in 2001, volunteering in Argentina to assist with small business development means you’ll be using your skills to help the local community become self-sufficient. It’s more than just teaching how to crunch the numbers; your impact will be long-lasting.
Volunteering in this South American country is also an opportunity to learn or master Spanish and immerse yourself in a vibrant culture.
Brazil is a country with one of the most diverse cultural heritages. It's a place of contrasts, sometimes even inside the same city. The struggling life of poor communities living in favelas (city slums), for example, is a complex and well-known issue.
Here you can teach locals to start their own business and become less dependent on social welfare, especially if you start with teenagers who are more prone to change. You can give the city the chance to make other positive international headlines beyond Carnaval in February.
This fascinating country in Southeast Asia, mostly famous for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat, attracts millions of tourists every year. Tourism has quickly grown to become one of the most profitable industries in the country, with its fair share of scams (the most famous being the fake orphanages where foreign visitors can volunteer for as little as a couple of hours).
Although challenging, volunteering in Cambodia will give you the opportunity to help change mentalities. Volunteers can help the locals to develop their small businesses and profit from tourism in a sustainable and transparent way.
Need more inspiration? Here are other places around the world to volunteer in small business development.
Types of Small Business Volunteer Opportunities
Small businesses have many needs, and if you're volunteering, you may find yourself doing multiple, unexpected tasks as part of your work. Since your goal is to support small businesses developing in economies different from your own, it's likely to be a learning experience for both you and the businesses you're helping.
An educational program, where you’ll be teaching practical skills at different levels, is usually executed best in situations where the community already knows the importance of small business development but doesn’t know how to take the next steps.
These skills could be the basic set up of a Facebook page for their business to more advanced marketing tools like building a communication plan.
Community development programs become crucial in the aftermath of an economic crisis or a natural disaster. It’s challenging but incredibly rewarding. You’ll be helping a local community start from scratch and it can involve anything from international fundraising to teaching locals on project management skills.
These types of programs involve a wide array of tasks and all levels of expertise are welcome. Even if you’re just a beginner, your help will be much appreciated.
This type of program requires that you have previous business development experience, even if it’s just theoretical. Basic skills are welcome here since you’ll be testing them out on the field with the help of local NGOs and program providers.
It will probably be more of a behind-the-scenes activity than a hands-on one, but it's just as important and valuable.
Volunteering your time, energy, and knowledge to small business development overseas will be as rewarding as your commitment to it. As challenging as many situations will be, your small actions will impact the lives of others. Plan your trip for a successful experience that benefits both sides.
How to Choose a Small Business Development Volunteer Program
Assess what you can do for a local community before deciding where you want to go. List all the skills you need for small business development and rate them according to your level of expertise. Be very clear and specific about what you can and can’t do.
Learn how to tell the difference between a reputable organization from a questionable one. For example, trustworthy local NGOs and volunteer program providers will match the level of your skills to the needs of the local community. They will also be open and transparent about their impact on that community and how their money is used.
Other details like project timeframe and the size and age limit of the volunteer group will also help you make the final decision. Some programs work all year-round, which is great if you want flexible dates, while others set a minimum and maximum week limit. In general, volunteer programs are only available for people aged 18 or over, without a set maximum age limit.
If you feel your contribution to the program would be more valuable in a tight-knit volunteer community, look for programs with small groups (1-15 people). Group sizes can range from 16-30 (medium) to 31+ (large).
If you're ready to get started supporting small business development around the world, now's the time! Entrepreneurs in every country need additional support, and you may help them take their business to the next level.