Global Brigades is an international non-profit that empowers communities to meet their health and economic goals through university volunteers and local teams.
The largest student-led movement for economic development
What is the objective of ESKALA?
We believe that everyone has the potential to be an entrepreneur, regardless of their background or resources. That’s why we provide microfinance services to entrepreneurs in rural areas of low-income that have difficulties getting support from financial institutions. We believe that by supporting entrepreneurship, we can help to create a more prosperous future for these communities.
What are the community needs that ESKALA addresses?
Lack of access to basic credit and financial services plagues much of the world resulting in a cycle of poverty that is hard to break. The rural Panamanian communities in which Business Brigades work are no exception. While larger cities in these countries are relatively developed with many commercial banks, families in rural areas have limited access to financial literacy education, legal resources, and capital. Thus, Business Brigades focuses on rural regions with little economic development in the hopes of empowering community members to start businesses and fulfill local demand. Not only will this benefit communities, but it will also enable them to garner a larger income and better provide for their families. In Greece, we work with Refugee and Migrants who plan to start a small business or own one. These tend to be vectors of inclusion and integration, however, the challenges that they face when running their business are various. Thus, Business Brigades focuses on supporting them maintain and grow their business in an environment that is not always welcoming or enabling.
How does Business Brigades address those needs?
In an effort to increase access to financial resources, business knowledge, and direct support, volunteers of Business Brigades provide business consulting, family financial planning assistance and strategic investment to support under-resourced communities in Greece and Panama. The goal is to ultimately equip the communities with the tools necessary to drive their own development.
Furthermore, Business Brigades support Panamanian communities in forming community banks or their own credit and savings cooperatives, which addresses the financial needs of rural families who don’t have access to formal sources of loans or savings. In addition to providing access to credit, Business Brigades aims to promote micro enterprise development through administrative and technical assistance.
Who gets involved in Business Brigades?
Any student or professional with a desire to create change can get involved in a brigade. Although most of the students who come on a Business Brigade have a Finance, Marketing, Accounting, or Business Administration academic background, we have also had many students with a variety of majors such as Supply Chain Management, Animal Science, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Graphic Design, Industrial Engineering, and many others participate in Business Brigades. Business Brigades are designed for volunteers of all backgrounds to be able to fully engage in the implementation of economic development solutions of under-resourced communities.
How much business experience do students need?
No business experience is needed. Your general knowledge and ideas will make a difference in the community. Applying certain principles and ideas from accounting, economics and business can definitely be helpful; however, the most important task is to work with community and help them to analyze their business to discover what they can improve to make their business more efficient.
What does a student do on a Business Brigade?
A Business Brigade participant (“brigader”) will typically engage in the following:
• Interview community members about their family’s finances and financial needs.
• Interview business owners and eager entrepreneurs about their business needs and challenges.
• Learn about the day-to-day processes of the business via community tours, demonstrations and question/answer sessions.
• Present educational workshops that inspire and inform the household or business owner of key financial planning skills, and business training, terms and tools the community can use post-brigade.
• Invest in the community through the Project Fund and other initiatives related to the community bank.
• Enjoy learning about a new culture, country and environment.
• Have fun! Work, play and learn about the community through a variety of intercultural activities planned by your Brigade Coordinator.
What does the community do on a Business Brigade?
Community involvement is key to a successful business brigade. The community will participate in interviews and workshops delivered by brigade volunteers. Business owners will take the time to show you their business and receive technical support. In Panama, families will invite the groups into their homes for interviews and workshops. The community will actively show the brigaders what they know and how they work on a daily basis. The community will gather for a final event where both the brigade and the community members will meet one last time before departing to share lessons learned, successes and plans for on-going development.
What does a student do to prepare for a Business Brigade?
For all brigade planning tools, volunteers should visit our Volunteer Resource Site. Be sure to reference the Business Pre-Brigade Curriculum. Your in-country Program Associate will send you various preparatory documents a 1-2 months prior to your brigade; make sure to review these documents!
Is there a minimum or maximum number of volunteers for groups?
For University Chapters, there is a minimum 10 volunteers. To fairly serve a community’s needs, this number is non-negotiable. Groups with 3 to 9 volunteers will have to join another chapter to go on Brigade. There is no maximum volunteer number. Non-University Chapters- please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where do the funds I raise go?
Volunteers do not pay to participate in a Business Brigade. Instead, volunteers fundraise to support Global Brigades’ Holistic Model. Once a volunteer meets a set Donation Goal, they are eligible to join us on-the-ground to see their fundraising efforts put into action by participating in a Business Brigade.
When a volunteer participates in a Business Brigade, the volunteer’s ground transportation, food, lodging, and emergency insurance are all covered. The funding that the volunteer raised also supports all the necessary costs for program implementation, such as community bank capitalization, supplies, coordinators, translators, and support staff.
Visit our financials page to learn about how donor funds are utilized.
Is this safe?
The safety of the student volunteers is Global Brigades’ number one priority and is the single most important consideration when entering a community or choosing a project. Each country that Global Brigades serves in has implemented safety protocols and policies to decrease any risk of danger and to ensure that any emergency can be properly handled in a prompt and professional manner. For more information on safety precautions, emergency procedures and insurance information, please visit the Safety and Insurance section on the Volunteer Resource Site.
This sounds great. How do I get involved?
First, find out if your school has a Business Brigades Chapter by searching for your school in the Chapters section. If your school does not have a Chapter, fill out the form below to get connected to one of our staff members.
How do we get a Deloitte mentor on our Business Brigade?
Contact your Program Associate. Deloitte has committed to sending two mentors for as many brigades as we can coordinate to Panama specifically.