Finding quality jobs for young people in Latin America, especially jobs outside of the informal sector that provide fair wages and just working conditions, is a growing socioeconomic concern. The United Nations reports that Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing the largest youth population in history with one in five people between the ages of 15-24. The unemployment rate for this age group is three times higher than for people between the ages of 30-64. For many young people, entrepreneurship has become a survival strategy, demonstrated by the fact that small businesses employ 67 percent of the workforce. However, 90 percent of these small businesses fail within the first two years.
MicroMentor, a social enterprise initiative of Mercy Corps, presents a solution by creating a nexus between budding young entrepreneurs and the resources they need to build sustainable businesses through mentoring. The results thus far have been encouraging. Through the MicroMentor platform, young entrepreneurs who receive mentoring support from professionals in the private and public sectors report increased skills development, increased access to external resources, and overall improved business outcomes. Participating mentors report building their own skills and expertise while their employers find them to be more engaged and productive.
MicroMentor is a free, easy-to-use online platform that leverages the power of mentoring by providing entrepreneurs with vital access to mentors with business expertise. The MicroMentor platform is accessible anytime, and anywhere—allowing people to connect and form mentoring relationships on their own schedule, no matter where they are located. With such advantages, the program is able to overcome geographic limitations and deliver much-needed business resources and training to underserved communities worldwide.
Since 2013, MicroMentor has established its presence in Latin America with offices currently operating in Mexico and Guatemala. The Latin America division has established strong partnerships in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem across sectors with corporations, governments, educational institutions, accelerators, community nonprofits, and international NGOs. Collaborating with these partners to connect entrepreneurs and mentors has led to the engagement of over 5,000 participants, creating nearly 3,000 mentoring connections in 20 Latin American countries over the past four years.
The results from MicroMentor‘s most recent impact study show that the majority of Latin American beneficiaries are young people between the ages of 18-40 and that their activity on the platform is higher than any other demographic. These participants commonly confront high levels of socioeconomic inequality, limited access to employment-based social security systems, and the absence of quality jobs. As budding entrepreneurs, participants also encounter barriers to business education and financial resources, with 70 percent reporting the inability to access entrepreneurial resources in their area without MicroMentor.
By engaging in these mentoring relationships, 84 percent of young Latin American entrepreneurs reported substantial improvement in their professional and personal skill sets. Areas such as strategic design, goal setting, leadership, teamwork, financial planning, market research, and operational management were all reported to be areas in which the entrepreneurs felt more confident and knowledgeable.
Overcoming the skills gap was accompanied by bolstered business survival rates that were 42 percent higher than un-mentored peers, indicating that access to mentoring improves an entrepreneur’s ability to launch a business and remain in operation over time. Reaching young Latin American entrepreneurs with mentoring services made them twice as likely to start and continue operating a new business, doubled self-employment rates, and generated four times as many full-time jobs compared to non-participating youth. Not only are the MicroMentor entrepreneurs in Latin America providing quality jobs for themselves, they are also increasing employment opportunities in their communities.
MicroMentor has found that building mentoring relationships increases skills development and acquisition, improves business outcomes, increases revenue, expands access to networks and resources, and creates jobs. But none of this would be possible without the mentors who have found their way to the MicroMentor site either individually or through MicroMentor’s partnership model.
Because the platform can be customized to partners’ needs, it serves as a proven mechanism for skills-based volunteering and employee engagement. The platform’s flexibility allows corporate social responsibility and employee volunteering departments, as well as government-based economic development initiatives and nonprofits, to engage their constituents in a meaningful way, to give their time, to share their knowledge, and to learn more about themselves and areas of expertise through mentoring.
In Latin America, MicroMentor is forging cross-sector partnerships, one of which is in conjunction with the World Bank and Banco BHD Leon, a private bank based in the Dominican Republic with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and women’s entrepreneurship initiatives. Another innovative partnership involves the introduction of the MicroMentor platform in various universities in Mexico alongside the programming of Enactus, a global university-based social enterprise incubator that combines entrepreneurial action with sustainable business development.
A testimonial from Jesús Esparza, Vice President of Enactus Worldwide and President of Enactus Mexico, explains the value of providing access to mentoring through MicroMentor for Mexican university students:
To have access to a network of people who can contribute to your business, from the formation of an idea to the generation of a business model and the value proposition, doesn’t make the path easier, but more efficient.
“To have access to a network of people who can contribute to your business, from the formation of an idea to the generation of a business model and the value proposition, doesn’t make the path easier, but more efficient.”
In collaboration with our community of partners and individuals, MicroMentor will continue working to engage young Latin Americans and other marginalized groups in the workforce by providing access to crucial business resources. By sharing the impacts and best practices of mentoring, networks such as the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) can play a vital role in scaling the positive effects of this economic development strategy. Further replication of local and regional mentoring programs would not only supply a critical and cost-free business service to entrepreneurs in need of support, but also stimulate a ripple effect of increased employment opportunities and ultimately more prosperous local economies throughout the globe.
Learn more about MicroMentor’s programs here: solutions.micromentor.org