Human Capital Management Tool Pilot in Nigeria

By Bankers without Borders® Volunteer Jess Watje

A few years ago, my friend Lakeesha introduced me to the idea of microfinance and to the work that Grameen Foundation was doing. I was intrigued with this concept based in human potential but naive to the extent of poverty in the world; certainly not sure I could do about any of it! When I heard about the opportunity, I immediately knew it was for me. I moved to Washington, DC and found myself immersed in microfinance.

During my three-month assignment, I applied my human resources knowledge to advance the offerings of the Human Capital Center. The more I learned, the more I realized the similarities between our organizations in what we aspire to and the challenges we face. I shared learnings and best practices from my human resources experience at Best Buy and infused the best of what we do at Best Buy into the tools we created for Grameen Foundation. It was an entirely new network to share my skills and talents with!

To round out the experience, I spent two weeks in Nigeria where microfinance plays a real part in the lives of poor entrepreneurs. With a GF colleague, we piloted a HR assessment tool with the largest microfinance institution in Nigeria, LAPO (Lift Above Poverty Organization). We reviewed the HR policies, listened to employees and leaders, learned how Nigerian culture impacts decisions and provided recommendations for how they could maximize their human capital practices.

The highlight was experiencing the heart of microfinance firsthand. I sat barefoot in a small, humid room in the home on the outskirts of Benin City, crowded with poor entrepreneurs making their weekly repayment of 1000 naira (approximately $6.50) to the credit officer. I traveled to a village outside of Benin City, to meet farmers in the dynamic group of ten years that they have named Akomen, meaning together in the Esan language. I heard stories of struggle and success, how access to these loans has created a better life for their families. I saw confident women with pride in their eyes. I saw hope. I was humbled.

These experiences have opened up my perspective on how organizations and individuals can actually make a sustainable global impact by investing in the poor. I'm back in my day job at Best Buy with a belief in the mutual benefits of partnerships, a renewed appreciation of the power of people and a deeper sense of responsibility for the impact we all have on the world.

The views represented here are solely those of the volunteer and do not necessarily represent the views of Bankers without Borders, Grameen Foundation, our sponsors, the microfinance institutions, or the volunteer’s employer.