It occurred to me that I had mentioned my time at Hopeline and the SME (small and medium enterprise) study in recent blog writings but haven’t explained the details. Besides taking classes here in Ghana, our program also connects us, in pairs, with different organizations. We are to work with and serve this organization in hopes to learn about the organization and about Ghana by participating in daily activities. My placement is at Hopeline Institute. This organization provides business loans and training to entrepreneurs for the purpose of public sector development and empowerment. My assignment at Hopeline is in part for Hopeline and in part for Hopeline’s US partner organization, Partners Worldwide, as they lay the foundation for an organizational evaluation.
So every Thursday and Friday, Nick and I, visit different medium sized businesses. In total we will visit twenty business owners. We engage the business owner in a conversation in which our goal is to try to draw out what has been instrumental for the success of the business. We ask about the history of the business. When did the business start? How did the business start? What is the market like for the business? How did the business owner receive the knowledge or skill to manage the business? Does the business owner receive joy from managing the business? What aspects of the business does the owner receive the most joy? Does the business owner see his business as successful? By the interviewee’s answer to this question we are able to in part articulate how the business owner defines success. We then discuss the challenges and obstacles the business owner and the business has faced over the years. How did the business owner overcome these challenges? Are there some that are yet to be overcome? Then finally what are some goals for the future, both personal and for the business?
There are many objectives to our study. Probably an overambitious amount but we will do what we can. First we want to learn about what goes into making up a SME here in Ghana. What are some of the concrete inputs? Did they receive a loan? Did they receive any type of business training? Are these things the business owners view as important? Are there any personality traits that make up a successful Ghanaian business owner? Next, we want to understand the outputs of medium sized businesses. What happens to the community, to the business owner, or to the owner’s family when the business grows and becomes successful? Do businesses really have a positive impact on community? Or does it simply make everyone greedy and distrusting? Does a higher income really make a family better off? Does the business owner enjoy providing for his or her employees? Or are employees a burden? Do employees ever come up in the conversation? Does the business owner become more charitable after owning a business? Is the business owner’s relationship with God enhanced by managing the business? What other things have we learned by talking with the business owners?
These are questions we are looking to answer. It sure has been an interesting time. We have had some pretty amazing and interesting conversations and experiences. (Read about the dedication of a school we observed as part of this study.) I think this is really cool. We are able to travel around to many different areas of Accra and meet many people. Our goal is to be able to write a report for Hopeline and Partners Worldwide to use for the purpose of helping them do what they do better.
Next week I spend a week with a family in the village of Adenkrobi. It should be a fascinating experience! Stay tuned for an update.