Revealing potentials

Revealing potentials

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Far too many underprivileged young people cannot access higher education and therefore remain trapped in the cycle of poverty.
In Cambodia, out of 300,000 young people 20,000 reach University and only 2,000 will reach qualified jobs, while business cannot find adequately skilled professionals.
With the vision of a world where the most underprivileged can use their talent to reach a better future, we strive to enable the largest number of young people in a precarious situation to access training leading to a qualified job in the Information Technologies sector.
And it works!
After 2 years training 95% of our beneficiaries are employed and earn 3 to 5 times the national average, lifting a whole family out of poverty and empowering the development of their country.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Cambodia’s contemporary poverty is due primarily to almost 30 years of conflict. Civil war began in 1970. Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge killed about one in four Cambodians, especially targeting the most educated. Until 1992, conflict has destroyed infrastructure, decimated the nation’s human capital, and weakened or distorted social, economic and political institutions. Despite the country’s impressive economic performance in recent years, employment remains a major challenge especially for large numbers of young cambodians entering the labor force as a result of a baby boom in the 1980s-1990s. 35% of the Cambodian population is estimated to be living under the national poverty line - and 20% under the food poverty line. Poverty is considerably higher in rural areas (39%) than urban areas. Gender inequality has historically been most pronounced with regard to education. Women continue to be concentrated in low-wage/low-income economic sectors and are paid less than men for the same work. Education compares poorly with the rest of the region, in quantity (70% of adults are illiterate) and quality (pupil-teacher ratios average 79:1 in poor communes). Out of 300000 children in an age class, 80000 complete high school, many of them thanks to dire family efforts or to NGO support. 75% stop studying after high school, mostly (80%) because their parents cannot support them, or because they need to earn money. Without proper further training and job opportunities, all their investment up to high school will be lost.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

<em>The success of our project is grounded in a collaborative approach.</em> It has been built on collaboration with strongly committed partners, to develop a model of skills sponsorship. This model has been initially developed with Accenture. Since 2005 the company brought support on three axes: - <strong>Financial support</strong>, - <strong>Skills sponsorship and skills volunteering</strong>: with a full-time pro-bono resource and more than 20 field missions of Accenture employees yearly, more than 1250 working days have already been offered. As an example, these missions enabled the initial quantitative market study, with 300 companies interviewed, which enabled us to develop curricula closely matching the market needs, - <strong>Leadership expertise and support</strong>, through direct involvement in a steering committee of key partners and seniors executives. This successful model has been extended to major European IT service companies, around the same three axes: companies such as Steria, ECS, Osiatis or Econocom: - Regularly renew their commitment to financially support one or two classes along their 2-year training, - Send employees who volunteer during their holidays to deliver targeted missions in their area of expertise, - Bring together senior executives to challenge and tune the projects strategy. <em>This innovative model relying on volunteer missions enabled us to bring and maintain the project at a high level of professionalism.</em>
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our project is a training center based in Phnom Penh, enabling yearly 200+ underprivileged young people from all over Cambodia to access a 2-year training and a qualified job in IT, thus escaping the cycle of poverty together with their families and taking an active part in their country’s development. The project is built on five principles: - <strong>fair and rigorous selection</strong> of underprivileged students; our selection procedure reaches 10% of the 80.000 high school graduates each year in Cambodia; it increases by 1% the number of young Cambodians having access to a higher level of education. - <strong>solid technical and practical training</strong>, targeted and certified, constantly updated; we deliver student-centered, pro-active and team-work based programs, developing our students into skilled, responsible and performing professionals. - <strong>general training in business skills and values</strong>: rigor, open-mindedness, adaptability, professionalism; these "21st-century skills" of our students are unanimously appreciated, and from their employers appreciation our alumni become real actors of change. - <strong>social</strong> (accommodation, food, health) and <strong>educational development</strong>, emphasizing the values of trust, responsibility and solidarity; beyond professional success, these values seed the rebuilding of Cambodian society. - <strong>guidance to employment</strong> through a network of business partners; this network guides us in the constant updating of the training, and provides internships and jobs for our trainees.
About You
Passerelles Numériques
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Passerelles Numériques

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Virginie Legrand, 50 years old, studied at Institut d’Etudes politiques "Sciences-Po" in Paris, and holds a MBA from Insead. She is married with 3 children.
After starting her career as a financial auditor at Arthur Andersen, Virginie worked successively at the head of Marketing department, of the Commercial department and then at the department of International Development at American Express.
Fifteen years ago Virginie took a sabbatical year and left for Cambodia as a volunteer for the “Enfants du Mékong” NGO. She spent that year visiting children and their families in the most deprived suburbs of Phnom Penh, and offering scholarships which gave them a chance to go – or go back – to school.
Virginie came back from Cambodia with the strong conviction that the non-profit world and the business world had a lot to share for their mutual benefit.
In 2003 she developed a first partnership between Accenture and Enfant du Mékong, whereby Accenture employees would volunteer to install computers and train IT trainers in some of the NGO’s boarding homes. This initiative was a large success. As Enfants du Mékong and other NGOs were striving to find qualifying training opportunities for their older children, in 2005 Accenture supported Virginie to launch a more ambitious project: a vocational training center that would also meet the needs for IT technicians of the local market.
This project met such a large success that Virginie and Passerelles Numériques have now started its replication in the Philippines (Cebu) since 2009 and in Vietnam (Da Nang) since 2010.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Since 2005 we received a growing number of students with a high success rate, in 2 kinds of programs:
1/ IT technicians (Systems & networks administrators, and Web programmers) in 2 years:
- From 25 students enrolled in 2005, to 97 to 100 each year since 2008
- 261 students (out of 280) completed the training
- 100% of graduates find a qualified job.
2/ Data management operators in 6 months, in partnership with Digital Divide Data (DDD), a US-based social business :
- 50 students enrolled in 2008, 50 in 2009, 100 in 2010
- 200 students (out of 200) completed the training
- 100% have been hired in DDD’s work-study program.

Our selection procedure reaches 10% of the 80.000 high school graduates each year in Cambodia. It increases by 1% the number of young Cambodians having access to a higher level of education, and:
- 93% of students complete the 2-year training
- <strong>100% of graduates get a qualified job</strong>
- <strong>Their first salary is 3 to 5 times the national average</strong>
- They send back about 30% to their family - 5 to 7 people as an average - doubling or tripling the family's income, and enabling their younger siblings to study in turn.

<em>We have developed a flexible and reproducible social integration model</em> which empowers disadvantaged students (85% from rural areas, and 54% females) - with the required IT skills to support filling the digital gap, potentially <strong>enabling thousands of new users to access ITC</strong>; our trainees thus foster a more inclusive development of provinces and contribute to societal change.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Our long-term goal is to expand training projects supported by the same vision and principles, rooted in local initiatives and partnerships, sharing knowledge and experience to maximize cost effectiveness and social impact.
<strong>Our ambition is to develop by 2013 the expertise and resources that will enable the implementation of our scaling up strategy:</strong>
- Expand our Cambodian school into <em>a resource center</em> dedicated to the evolution and expansion of projects, developing our capability to minimize costs, nurture educational expertise and standardize our tools and procedures.
- <em>Refine our model in new projects.</em> We are now moving from a direct operational role to a role of integrator, with a strong involvement of major local universities and corporate partners.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

<strong>Defining and implementing the economic model which will enable current projects within 3 to 5 years to be funded up to 50% to 70% locally and in a sustainable expansive manner is a requirement before we can start developing new projects.</strong>
In the Philippines and Vietnam, the size and maturity of the economic development allow us to expect a faster financial sustainability.
In Cambodia, following its recent history – the genocide particularly targeted at the most educated, and a political stability just reestablished in the 1990’s:
- The country suffers from a drastic shortage of skills, and
- The recent economic environment is still very weak and lacks mature development as well as scant human resources.
In such context, it is a real challenge to maintain the Cambodian project to sustainable level:
- <em>Institutional</em>, by consolidating our status and relationship with local authorities, as well as leveraging our strategic partnerships with the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, Digital Divide Data, Connected Schools and other organizations;
- <em>Human</em>: our school has succeeded in a first stage of its local management (becoming a real Khmer school): 90% of the staff is now Cambodian. In 3 years, all department managers will be Cambodians, mainly because of the technical support from our major IT partner companies in France.
- <em>Financial</em>: we are concentrating our efforts so that in 3 years from now, at least 50% of our funding for Cambodia will be raised locally.

Tell us about your partnerships

Our project is rooted in bringing together and integrating the skills of all stakeholders:
<em>International businesses</em>
As described above, the model of skills sponsorship developed with Accenture and extended to other major IT companies, enabled us to raise the project up to a differentiating level of professional quality.
<em>Educational institutions</em>
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports awards an academic value to our training, facilitates our selection process, and solicits us for further partnership.
We collaborate with the leading "Institute of Technology of Cambodia" on curricula and teacher training.
About 30 NGO partners bring candidates to our selection process; 16 of them get involved to facilitate organization with provincial authorities and high schools; 9 of them provide financial and social support to our trainees.
<em>Local companies</em>
We have built a strong network of more than 300 local professional partners, who get involved through market studies, professional events, company visits, lectures, projects evaluation and internships. Thanks to this network, we have:
- collected and published accurate data on the local IT market,
- developed a tailored training,
- fostered companies societal commitment through training internships, work-study programs, financial sponsorship of underprivileged students.
<strong>Our training goals are market-based, but our means are student-centered</strong>, matching the specificities of capable and motivated, yet low-background trainees.

Explain your selections

About 75% of the Cambodian project is funded internationally:
- 30% by IT business partners who typically fund the running costs of training 1 or 2 classes of 25 students along their 2-year studies, besides the skills volunteering missions powered by their employees.
- 35% by individual donors, especially wealthy entrepreneurs or former entrepreneurs who know the value of professional qualifications. A group of “Venture Philanthropists” offers funding and expertise to support the design and structuring of our sustainability business plan for Cambodia.
Our long-term funding strategy for this Cambodian project is to reach at least 50% to 70% local funding provided by:
- employers (work-study contract),
- alumni (committed to supporting their school),
- NGOs and Digital Divide Data who already grant scholarships up to 50% of tuition fees,
- A commitment by the government.

Our new projects are started with strong support of:
- Accenture for the Philippines (50% of costs for 4 years),
- AFD – French Development Agency – for Vietnam (50% of costs for 3 years).
The size and maturity of the local economy allow us to expect a faster financial sustainability in these two countries, with the following models:
In the Philippines:
- Up to 30% by the "Dual Training" work-study model encouraged by the government,
- Up to 30% by alumni,
- Up to 40% through corporate partnerships and individual donations.
In Vietnam:
- Local government funding, an expertise area of our partner IECD,
- a network Entrepreneurs from the Vietnamese Diaspora.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

<strong>Our main objective for the next 3 years is to implement the economic model that will enable this project to be developed in a sustainable expanding manner.</strong> This model relies on:
- Our NGO partners: they normally commit to providing 50% of school expenses for their beneficiaries.
- Digital Divide Data: this social business provides 50% of the school expenses for the students - currently 100 per year - trained in our center to ultimately become Data Management Operators with the company.
- Businesses who hire students: as the immediate beneficiaries of our activity, they are now systematically requested to contribute financially to internship fees. Some already have committed further and offer annual grants ranging from $5 000 to $25 000. The Center also delivers some on-the-job training to professionals in its area of expertise.
- Alumni: while granting bank loans to the students would question the principle – highly symbolic - of offering free studies to the most needy, we have chosen to promote financial contribution by alumni in a spirit of solidarity. Once they have a good job, graduates will offer a monthly support for a minimum three years.
- Sponsorship from individuals: this model represents the basic financing of many NGOs, though relying on western sponsors. The most privileged in Cambodia should also contribute to the operational costs of our Center.
- Events: we will leverage the success of a first "Solidarity race" which brought together our students and the French Highschool in Phnom Penh, in a festive and popular relay race event.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Lack of access to information and networks



Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Lack of skills/training: Our beneficiaries made significant financial efforts to complete high school. We provide opportunities for them to overcome the scarcity and high cost of quality vocational or higher education, thus to give a meaning to their initial investment in school.
Lack of access to information and networks: Through initial information sessions, our selection process brings to 10% of yearly high school graduates essential information on IT, IT training and job opportunities. At the other end, our company network helps trainees find a job, compensating their lack of personal network.
Underemployment: while local universities produce quantities of under-skilled graduates, we give opportunities to high potential youth whose capacities would otherwise would be spoiled.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Grown geographic reach: Multi-country


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Within Cambodia, we work on:
- supporting improvements of high school education,
- integrating more academic and business partners to nurture and disseminate best practices,
- encouraging and supporting our graduates to promote development in provinces.
With two new projects based on the same objectives and principles in the Philippines and Vietnam, we are taking a step forward as key elements of the value chain are delivered in cooperation with local partners.
We thus create synergies among different actors and geographies in order to increase impact and improve our model.
In term, beyond sharing knowledge and experience in an open source spirit we envision a network of franchisees who will share and grow know-how and resources, and eventually influence educational policies.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Technology providers support the delivery of quality training with free products, generic training programs (CISCO Netacad, HP Life) or tailored partnerships (with Novell on Linux).
Collaboration with non-profits is multiple: many are involved in our selection process, then offer social and financial support to trainees. With some having similar activities we share market knowledge, pedagogy resources, social evaluation expertise.
Through skills sponsorship, international companies play a key role in maintaining high curricula relevance, trainers skills, operations quality.
Beyond collaboration through work-study interships, some local companies now get similarly involved.
We work with the Institute of Technology of Cambodia for mutual benefit on training materials and HR management.