Our social mission
Who do you partner with?
With more than 45 years’ experience, Opportunity International Australia gives families the tools they need to work their way out of poverty. For a family in a developing country struggling to survive, a small loan can help them build a business and earn a regular income with dignity and purpose. As businesses grow and employ others, 98% of loans are repaid and recycled, creating a ripple effect that reaches more and more people over time. Leveraging the relationship-based distribution network our microfinance partners operate in, Opportunity International supplement loans with community development solutions that address other barriers that often keep families in poverty.
An aspect of equipping families to end poverty is to help them prevent the debilitating illnesses that stop them working in their businesses. That’s why Opportunity trains women in India and Indonesia to be health leaders, empowering them to educate families in their local communities about ways of preventing illness and improving their health—by washing their hands, drinking clean water, building toilets, using sanitary napkins, growing vegetables, breastfeeding and giving birth in hospitals. Healthy families are more able to journey out of poverty because parents can work to earn a living and kids can go to school—everyday—rather than constantly missing out because of constant illness.
Knowing that education is a powerful tool to help families end poverty, Opportunity provides school fee loans to parents, enabling them to educate their children. Opportunity International also provide loans to school leaders—who are often groups of entrepreneurial parents—so they can build classrooms, buy textbooks and computers, recruit qualified teachers and continually improve the quality of the education they provide to children who are eager to learn.
This is why we do what we do
On the surface we may look, feel, and even operate like a traditional business. But if you scratch away at the surface and look more deeply, our focus is to apply a business and entrepreneurial approach to addressing social issues and creating positive community change. As a social enterprise we seek to partner with registered charitable organisations who journey with the poor and the most vulnerable. We donate 50% of our post-tax profits to charity.
A key focus is the education of girls and young women. Education has a unique power to act as a catalyst for wider development goals. To fully realise this, education must be equitable. That means making special efforts to ensure that all children and young people – regardless of their family income, where they live, their gender, their ethnicity, whether they are disabled – can benefit equally from its transformative power. Education empowers girls and young women, in particular, by increasing their chances of getting jobs, staying healthy and participating fully in society – and it boosts their children’s chances of leading healthy lives.
In many cultures women can be excluded from education and the mainstream economy. With a focus on education this helps create capacity and self-sufficiency for individuals who can impact their community and lessen the reliance on the social safety net. Sadly, in many communities, there is no social safety net.
Ever wonder what we do with the 50% of our profits we don’t donate? We invest almost all of the other 50% into growing the company by improving our business processes and logistics, seeking more affordable delivery and cutting down on wastage. The more our business grows, the more we can donate and the more impact we can have. We’re here for the long haul. On top of growing our business, it’s incredibly important for us to prove our profit-for-purpose business model can work. The more people see this, the more social enterprises like ours can get off the ground and do great things!
The UNESCO REPORT (facts & infographics) that get us out of bed in the morning
The following report was published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). It provides the motivation for what we do:
The report and infographics are worth reading, however, if you don’t have the time, a summary of the key themes under the banner of ‘Education transforms lives’ can be broken down as follows:
- A mother’s education is crucial for her own health. Every day, almost 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, including pre-eclampsia, bleeding, infections and unsafe abortion. Educated women are more likely to avoid these dangers, by adopting simple and low cost practices to maintain hygiene, by reacting to symptoms, and by making sure a skilled attendant is present at birth.
- Educating girls can save millions of lives. There are few more dramatic illustrations of the power of education than the estimate that the lives of 2.1 million children under 5 were saved between 1990 and 2009 because of improvements in girls’ education. Education is one of the most powerful ways of improving children’s health. Educated mothers are better informed about specific diseases, so they can take measures to prevent them. They can recognize signs of illness early, seek advice and act on it.
- Education is vital to eliminate malnutrition in the long term – especially education that empowers women. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of more than a third of global child deaths. Educated mothers are more likely to ensure that their children receive the best nutrients to help them prevent or fight off ill health, know more about appropriate health and hygiene practices, and have more power in the home to make sure children’s nutrition needs are met.
- Education enhances job opportunities, helping households to escape poverty. Educated men and women are more likely not just to be employed, but to hold jobs that are secure and provide good working conditions and decent pay. By benefiting women in particular, education can help narrow gender gaps in work opportunities and pay. As well as helping lift households out of poverty permanently, education guards against them falling – or falling back – into poverty.
- Education empowers women to overcome discrimination. Girls and young women who are educated have greater awareness of their rights, and greater confidence and freedom to make decisions that affect their lives, improve their own and their children’s health and chances of survival, and boost their work prospects. One in eight girls is married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, and one in seven has given birth by the age of 17. Ensuring that girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways of averting child marriage and early birth. Education is also a key factor in hastening the demographic transition to lower birth and mortality rates.
- Education is indispensable in strengthening the bonds that hold communities and societies together. Education helps people understand democracy, promotes the tolerance and trust that underpin it, and motivates people to participate in politics. Education’s role is especially vital in regions and countries where lack of tolerance is associated with violence and conflict.
- Equal education boosts economic growth. Education not only helps individuals escape poverty by developing the skills they need to improve their livelihoods, but also generates productivity gains that boost economic growth substantially. For growth to reduce poverty, however, it needs to overcome inequality by improving the lives of the poorest and marginalised the most. Education is vital to achieve this goal because it can help ensure that the benefits of growth are fairly shared.
- Education is part of the solution to global environmental problems. People with more education tend not only to be more concerned about the environment, but also to follow up that concern with action that promotes and supports political decisions that protect the environment. By improving knowledge, instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to change environmentally harmful lifestyles and behaviour. Education can encourage people to use energy and water more efficiently and recycle household waste. In poor countries affected by climate change, education helps people adapt to its effects.
What is a social enterprise?
Although a relatively new concept, Social Enterprise since the early 2000’s is developing innovative new approaches to solving tough problems. Rather than being driven by the need to deliver profit to shareholders and owners, a social enterprise can build a culture of co-operation, collaboration and leverage to pair skills, expertise and experience for bold solutions to social and environmental issues to create sustainable opportunities in making the world a better place.
The following criteria can be used as a guideline to understand whether an organisation is a social enterprise or not:
- Purpose - A Social Enterprise can clearly articulate their social, environmental, economic, or cultural purpose. This should be recorded in the organisations founding documentation.
- Trade - A Social Enterprise earns the majority of its income from the sale of goods or services.
- Profit - A Social Enterprise makes a profit and invests a proportion of that profit to achieve social, environmental, economic, and cultural outcomes.
- Impact - A Social Enterprise can measure the difference they are making and use this information to ‘prove and improve’ their impact.