Staff Blog: Developing a 3-5 Year Vision for our Economy Program at the American Express Leadership Academy

Three of our team members (Meg Orazio, Chief Impact Officer; Linda Thélémaque, Country Director; and Christina Baptiste, Economy Program Manager) participated in the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Thunderbird School of  Management this fall. Below, read their reflection on the program and how the skills they learned have helped shape the future of our Economy Program. 

The goal of the American Express Leadership Academy at Thunderbird is to provide high-potential emerging leaders from selected international non-profit organizations with practical opportunities to learn and build leadership skills. The Academy brings together emerging leaders from international NGOs and nonprofits to help develop their leadership skills while also building the organizational capacity of their organizations. The program convenes up to 30 emerging leaders and builds on Thunderbird’s 70+ years of experience in developing leaders with a global mindset, business skills and the social responsibility necessary to create lasting value for organizations and communities. 

We entered the #AMEXleads program looking to find solutions to the questions – how can we support our business partners to maintain profitability, as we saw a decline in loan repayment during COVID-19 and peyi lock [a countrywide lock down due to civil and political unrest]? What technology, digital solutions, and innovation can the business we’ve invested in leverage to sustain revenue while keeping their staff and clients safe?  This two-week program allowed us the time to work together, pause, and reflect to think strategically about our vision for the Economy Program in the coming 3-5 years. Based on our experience and lessons learned, we designed Ekonomi Okay, a program that includes: financial literacy workshops, basic business theory workshops, digital solution workshops, access to capital, and networking opportunities.

This program will fill a critical void in the Greater South of Haiti as there are no other organizations or interventions  focused on both education and capital for micro-, small- and growing businesses (MBs/SGBs). Many entrepreneurs in Haiti fail because they do not have the education or the access to capital to grow their business. By implementing a program that includes both, we will be setting up our MBs/SGBs for business continuity and innovative solutions.

Our top takeaways from the course were:

  1. What my management style is.
  2. That it is just as important to take a pause and reflect, as it is to take action and make decisions.
  3. That my mom’s right! How I present information is just as important as the information I’m presenting (but of course I didn’t tell my mom that!)
  4. When presented with a problem, it is important to step back, ask questions, and ask all of the what if’s rather than just providing solutions
  5. We’re all in the same storm, but different boats. No matter how large or small your organization is, while the context may be different, we face similar challenges/issues. 
  6. While we at HFH are small, we are mighty! 
  7. “If you’re not making wrong decisions, you’re not making enough decisions. And if you’re not making enough decisions, you’re not a good leader” Stephen Squeri, CEO of American Express

We are so grateful to have attended this course and want to say thank you to all of the Thunderbird School of Management Professors and Program Coordinator, participating organizations, and American Express for this opportunity!  Please let us know if you are interested in learning more about the Ekonomi Okay program and other Economy Program investing opportunities.

History of Economy Program

In order to reduce inequality and promote Haitian economic development in building an inclusive and cohesive society, Hope for Haiti invests in social entrepreneurs and businesses by making loans and grants. We believe that a well-established social entrepreneurship program in Haiti helps to enhance its sustainable development programs and create more jobs not only for youth but also for other marginalized populations around the country.

With support from Dalio Philanthropies, our economic development investments are targeted to support the social and economic development of education, healthcare, sustainable agriculture, technology, renewable energy, gender equality, and eco-tourism. Since 2017, we’ve directly invested over $990,000 dollars into strengthening the Haitian economy through grants, loans, and micro-grants that support entrepreneurs, businesses, and the people that they serve.

Economy Program Accomplishments

  1. 2 Annual Economy Pitch Challenges
  2. Financial Literacy Courses for community members
  3. Awarded 250 microgrants totalling $23,000
  4. Awarded 36 grants totalling $259,174.71
  5. Awarded 48 loans totalling $699,386.43
  6. Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) 5-year survey completed in two communities 
Donate