This project was developed during the Fintech Jam for Good, a service design jam hosted by Innovate Finance, co-facilitated by Claro Partners and The Booster Labs. This event took place in London, as part of the 2016 Innovate Finance Global Summit, and was sponsored by Unicef and Infosys.
I was part of a team of 6 people, from 5 different countries: Canada, UK, India, Czech Republic, and Portugal.
The challenge was presented to us by Infosys, a global technology and innovation consultant, and it consisted of creating solutions to combat financial exclusion, particularly in rural areas of underdeveloped countries and within refugee communities.
This project presented two main challenges to me. Firstly, despite being familiar with the finance sector, I had little knowledge of the abundance of existing fintech solutions. I left the event with a clear understanding of the potential of the application of technology in this area and with the extreme interest in learning more.
Secondly, this was the first time I applied the Design Thinking principles with a team where the majority of the elements had no knowledge of them. This was the opportunity to test my knowledge and to facilitate their learning journey.
During the process, the team explored the problems of two groups: a rural community in Pakistan and a refugee community in Jordan and decided to focus on the later. After further research, we found out that Zaatari, a UN refugee camp in Jordan, has a population of 83.000 people. This camp is moving from being a top-down controlled space, to a self-organized city. We also discovered that many of its inhabitants are creating their own businesses within Zaatari, which not only is helping them to move on with their lives but is also generating incredible economic value. With this in mind, we decided to tackle the following question:
How might we support entrepreneurs in refugee camps to scale up their businesses?
In less than 48 hours, the team came up with a platform that linked the concepts of crowdfunding and microcredit, with mobile SMS payments – The SVG or Syrian Ventures Group.
Through this platform, we wanted to connect the entrepreneurs in Zaatari with other people wanting to help the refugee community, in a more meaningful and long-lasting way than just by donating money.
In the platform, the entrepreneurs can create a profile for their business, with their story and investment needs. All the profiles will be gathered in a Kickstarter-style website, through which anyone can lend small amounts of money to their elected business. Once the total amount of the required investment is collected, this loan is sent to the entrepreneur’s m-wallet account. This money is then spent on growing the business. The loan is repaid in incremental steps, with a small interest rate, of 5% to 10%. The SVG is a not for profit organization and is maintained with donations from the lenders.
Similar ideas already exist, but SVG cuts through the middle-men, avoiding interest rates of 30%, and focuses on the specific needs of the refugee community.
WINNERS OF THE INFOSYS CHALLENGE
Our idea won the Infosys challenge, and this gave us the opportunity to pitch it at the Innovate Finance Global Summit 2016, at Guildhall, to an audience of investors and fintech experts.