Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
ARZU has worked at the grassroots level for the past seven years in rural Bamyan and Faryab provinces as a registered Afghan NGO. ARZU believes in the power of Afghans, in particular women, to rebuild the private sector in Afghanistan and in the power of markets to improve lives. At inception in 2004, ARZU made the critical decision to employ an all-Afghan staff in support of our mission to expand local human capacity. From a starting point of a single employee, Hamid Hekmat, our Country Director who joined ARZU in 2004, ARZU’s local team has grown to 52 Afghans, who execute all in-country programs. Their positions include Country Director, Social Programs Director, regional managers, office and facility managers, teachers, education monitors, health monitors, carpet experts, graphers, drivers, cooks, and guards. ARZU’s Social Programs Director in Kabul has always been held by an Afghan-American to serve as the critical bridge between the two cultures. ARZU’s all-Afghan field team has become a trusted partner in the seven villages where we operate by developing strong local relationships, by effectively delivering promised results, and by meeting expectations through competent execution. The key to ARZU’s success is being embedded at the village level, which positions us to experiment with and implement new initiatives at will. Having the full cooperation of local stakeholders allows us to shift the focus from simple program execution to innovating, piloting and testing tactics in expeditionary economics.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
From starting point in 2004 of only thirty weavers, ARZU now provides employment for over 1,300 Afghans, direct social benefits to over 4,000 beneficiaries and impacts the lives of tens of thousands of other villagers due to the ripple effect of broad-based community development programs. For the past seven years, ARZU has successfully overcome the many challenges and unexpected obstacles encountered while working in a conflict zone by identifying, piloting and implementing innovative solutions. It is this unique ability to rapidly adjust to changing conditions through innovation that has made ARZU successful while other organizations, both large and small, falter. A key difference between ARZU and traditional NGO’s is ARZU’s focus on developing a reliable stream of earned income that will ultimately ensure sustainability for all programs. ARZU uses pilot programs as a low-cost and pragmatic direct form of market analysis to determine the feasibility of new micro-enterprises, to understand real costs and potential for profitability under real operating conditions, and to make important adjustments based on actual experience before committing to rolling out a business in scale. An important outcome of our pilot process for starting new enterprises is to understand the economic viability of each opportunity before committing to a long-term involvement. We have found this implemented approach to be highly effective as compared to theoretical studies utilized by other NGO's and Government agencies.