Roma Entrepreneurship development initiative is an ecosystem builder focusing on developing tools to increase vulnerable communities’ economic empowerment. We initially built a non-profit in Romania (2016) and set-up a financial institution in Luxembourg (2018), a recycling company in North Macedonia (2020), set-up several business clubs in the region (2017-2020). We trained several tens of young Roma to work in banks in the region. In the process, we reached out to more than 2500 entrepreneurs active in vulnerable communities and offered close to 35000 hours of business development support, consulting, and advocacy.
Led by a team of young Roma Professionals from different European countries, REDI aims to provide access to affordable finance for Roma entrepreneurs in Central, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans and provide technical assistance for the selected pool of entrepreneurs to increase their expertise and skills. REDI is the first-ever institution dedicated to facilitating funding for start-ups and businesses among Europe’s most vulnerable group – the Roma people, leveraging on the ground presence and institutional relationship. We believe that enabling entrepreneurs to develop a business will lead to long-term employment and boosting job opportunities in the communities.
In 2021, we plan to establish several cooperatives in Romania and Serbia and a network of incubators and accelerators in Romania, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
REDI plans to build tools to empower Roma entrepreneurs to develop their communities from within, support them to connect across borders and voice out their interests. REDI’s long-term ambition is to help create 20 000 jobs in Roma communities in the next five years by using business facilitation, access to finance, human resource training, and capacity building.
In the past four years, REDI has identified and mapped more than 2500 existing entrepreneurs in the region, provided pre-loan technical assistance to more than 1500 entrepreneurs, facilitated more than 150 Roma entrepreneurs to receive loans via Roma loan officers, facilitated 1.1 million euro to microfinance institutions willing to work with Roma communities. REDI has also trained 20 Roma loan officers in partnership with MFIs in Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Serbia and built strong relations with the Council of Europe Bank, Kreditanstalt fur Wiedenraufbau (KfW), Dentons, PwC, and KPMG, as well as social investment funds such as CoopEst.
Our team comprises well-educated and experienced professionals with 15+ years of experience in economics, public policy, law, human rights, youth policy, anti-discrimination, community development, granting, loan programs, capacity building, and economic empowerment in poor communities.
Our main accomplishment is establishing the first-ever Roma financial institution (the REDI Fund) capable of developing a strong partnership with the European Commission, Council of Europe Bank, European Investment Bank, and other public impact investors. We aim to use this vehicle to distribute funds allocated to Roma communities and Roma beneficiaries.
Targets and tools
In cooperation with the REDI Fund, REDI NGOs are active in 3 main directions:
• community outreach by REDI, through its network of business facilitators, identifies potential eligible entrepreneurs, pre-assessing their business potential and referring them to different partner MFIs,
• building a network of Roma lending specialist (i.e. loan officer, credit risk officers) focused on assessing Roma entrepreneurs loan requests,
• supporting the development of Roma business clubs as hubs of resources sharing for Roma entrepreneurs active in a specific region, aiming to develop a pan-European network of inter-connected clubs to create the basis for REDI-run Social Enterprises.
In the past several years, REDI has developed and adapted a mix of tools to support entrepreneurs:
• Developing a comprehensive mapping of entrepreneurs in vulnerable communities with a focus on Roma entrepreneurs and conduct a market assessment of their constraints and needs
• Personalized business development services and capacity building delivered via REDI field officers and partner institutions
• Access to finance via Roma loan officers placed in partner microfinance institutions who would receive funding via REDI FUND
• organizing Roma entrepreneurs in Roma business clubs which would enable them to network, exchange practices, and information, and advocate for better conditions to carry-out business
• Developing the network of business facilitators capable of providing information to entrepreneurs in local communities.
Developing innovative projects with social impact in Roma communities
REDI is using an innovative approach and tools for the economic growth of Roma communities. We provide Roma entrepreneurs with capacity building activities to use digital tools for development opportunities. We help the Roma in the recycling sector to establish green companies as support instruments for their communities.
Our incredibly diverse team allows us to draw from various experiences (automotive industry, banking, legal, non-profit) and come up with novel ways to support our target group and partner organizations. We are a fast-paced, flexible and deliberate ecosystem builder.
- REDI Fund (2018)
Challenge: vulnerable and excluded communities lack access to funding to support their business. This is despite public guarantees being available. The lack of access to funding is due to perceived higher risk and discrimination.
Solution: REDI Fund is an innovative concept that targets philanthropic investments to leverage additional funds from social impact investors, which would then leverage additional funds from traditional banks and state-owned financial institutions. It provides other risk-sharing, capital and different support tools to bridge the gap between Roma communities and financial institutions.
- REDI Recycling (2020)
Challenge: Poverty and lack of access to employment opportunities make informal waste collection the only available source of income for some 4500 people in Skopje only. Many of them are school-age children. The collected materials are sold to intermediaries who pay a much lower amount compared to the market price, which means that multiple family members need to collect waste to afford food on the same day.
Solution: REDI recycling is another innovative institution developed by REDI NGO, which supports informal waste collectors in the Balkans by developing innovative products (high added value). This will allow us to increase the revenue generated by a family so that fewer people need to work to bring the same amount of money and enable families to send children to school.
- Roma business clubs
Challenge: while homogeneous from the outside, vulnerable communities are often very heterogeneous with people competing on local markets or from various ethnic backgrounds.
Solution: through the REDI business clubs, we try to rebuild the community using online and offline events, meetings, and conferences. Through open dialogue, entrepreneurs identify ways to find similarities and ways to work together and learn from each other.
- COVID Digital Boost
Challenge: many of the 2500 people we work with operate in the formal economy using almost no digital tools. COVID 19 pandemic impacted them heavily.
Solution: our team developed and deployed a methodology that supports market sellers to transfer part of their online business. The process was piloted on a group of 60 people in 3 countries.
Diversity and Inclusion
Since the direct target group and primary beneficiaries of REDI’s activities are the Roma, we strive to design and implement the organization’s projects and programs to promote Roma’s inclusion, economic empowerment, facilitating access to finance for Roma entrepreneurs, and Roma communities. The economic growth in Roma communities will contribute to their inclusion in society by creating more job opportunities, business initiatives, and investments.
REDI is an organization that strongly believes in and promotes the principle of diversity. In all our activities, we target people from minority groups and disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. We put great efforts to empower the Roma women and young people economically.