Zsuzsanna Kovacs (Hungary)
Internship at REDI
Brussels, Belgium (October 2018 - October 2019)
REDI - Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative focuses on economic empowerment and financial inclusion of Roma entrepreneurs in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. We are dedicated to enabling access to funding for startups and businesses among Europe’s most vulnerable group: the Roma people. REDI believes that enabling entrepreneurs from poor communities to develop business will lead to long term employment and boosting job opportunities. The project was launched in Romania and Bulgaria in 2015 and in 2017 was scaled-up to cover Serbia and Macedonia. In 2019, the REDI NGO will set up a financial vehicle and enable regional microfinance institutions to create Roma portfolio.
I got familiarize with the activities of REDI via our brochures and pilot project report form 2016. I learned what is the main problem to tackle Roma entrepreneurs financing. In my understanding, it is the lack of collaterals and a sufficient guarantee scheme which would encourage local microfinance institutions to take the risk they assume in the sort of financing for Roma.
Between 12/12/2018 and 12/01/2019 I have developed REDI's website (www.redi-ngo.eu) together with our website developers (decided on the design, made sure that the photos are empowering, the information is accurate and updated, communicated with the team in the field operation and took part in the reporting to the donors, the Open Society Foundation. The website enabled us to communicate that REDI is a reliable organization to be taken seriously which was confirmed during the calls with the potential partners who have learned our website before starting the discussion with us. In November, all the local teams have traveled to Skopje for a team building and training exercise. By traveling to Skopje, the hub of our field operation activities, I have learned from our loan officers delegated to the partner microfinance institutions what difficulties Roma are facing within the lending process.
Between 12/01/2019 and 12/04/2019, I took part in advocacy activities. Together with the Brussels team, we have submitted various proposals and developed arguments for addressing the sufficient outreach of microfinance and technical assistance programs with a focus on vulnerable groups for the next MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework between 2020 and 2027), how the interest of Roma should be represented. I have identified potential programs to channel REDI activities.
I have learned various soft skills in this process and how to communicate effectively in Brussels to gain important information from stakeholders.
From 12/04/2019 to date, I am developing the financial vehicle for REDI together with the lawyers' \and service providers. I am identifying legal processes, legal problems and environments which promote or hinder microfinance in the EU and the non-EU Balkan region.
What did you learn?
I have learned that microfinance is a viable program for addressing the problem that Roma are considered to be unbankable. I have seen the documents which prove otherwise and had interviews with our team members and young loan officers which proved that there is a market for disbursing financial instruments for Roma.
I learned soft skills to communicate more effectively for advocacy purposes. I dealt with complex matters of law in English and communicated to team members. I learned from team members how to formulate a pitch.
I had an insight into EU politics and drivers of stakeholders offering an enormous value.