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Reaching Rural MSMES: Small Foundation’s inaugural partner gathering

Last week Small Foundation hosted a gathering of our partners and peer funders in Nairobi. More than 70 colleagues came together from Africa, Europe and North America to share insights and experiences on the theme of ‘reaching rural MSMEs’.  

We spent time connecting, building trust, and sharing about our individual work. Together we discussed ecosystem dynamics, including the range of SME needs and available supports, and their role in driving rural development.  

The gathering was focused around two co-learning sessions – small group thematic discussions led by participants. The topics were identified by our partners through a content committee, who also supported the facilitation of the event. 

The first session, composed of Small Foundation staff and partners, included the following topics: 

  • How do we break silos between ESOs and SMEs to support collaboration? (facilitated by Sam Ndonga, Samawati Capital) 
  • How can we move towards a common set of metrics to benchmark approaches to supporting SMEs, stimulate learning and improve outcomes? (facilitated by Mark Blackett, AMEA) 
  • How are we engaging the energy and ideas of young people as agents of change? (facilitated by Nono Sekhoto, ALA) 
  • Digitally enabled collaboration for rural SMEs and practical tools for convening rural SMEs (facilitated by Alex Simuyandi, Emerald Africa) 
  • What metrics can help us see the broader changes occurring at the community/ecosystem level through the collaborations of many individuals and organisations? (facilitated by Nadia Martinez, SAFIN) 

Welcoming peer funders 

The inclusion of peer funders was critical to help us achieve our objectives to respond to partner needs; deepen engagement and spark collaboration opportunities; and learn together how we can better support rural-impacting MSMEs. 

As voiced by Small Foundation’s CEO and Chair Conor Brosnan at the opening of our time together: 

“We are always looking for ways to support our partners and their impact objectives. We believe bringing people together like this has the potential to lead to greater coordination and collaboration.” 

The next round of co-learning sessions, joined by peer funders, covered the following: 

  • How are we ensuring rural SMEs are receiving the support they need? (facilitated by Jessica Stewart, Creative Metier) 
  • Macro-economic dynamics and impact, electoral cycles (facilitated by Val Wiggett, ALA) 
  • What is the role of networks and existing micro systems in reaching rural SMEs? (facilitated by Nzwaki Adonisi, WAI)  
  • ​​ What are the financial innovations that are making a difference? (facilitated by Nicholas Colloff, Argidius) 
  • Investment/financial products that are structured to address the needs of rural-impacting SMEs?  (facilitated by Deji Abedusoye, Sahel Capital) 

What next? 

Thanks to Samuel Ndonga, Steve Miles, Nzwaki Adonisi, Val Wiggett, Nadia Martinez and Mark Blackett who generously volunteered their time to help shape the content of the gathering; to Nono Sekhoto and Elsa Henderson for their dynamic facilitation; and to all who attended for their rich contributions, openness, and trust. 

In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing our learnings from the gathering, reflecting on the power of convening, and offering emergent insights from the co-learning sessions.

Feedback from participants 

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to meet you all in-person and to connect with Small’s incredible ecosystem of partners; it was an energising and well-curated couple of days. We have already experienced such a vibrant tangent of new conversations and collaboration opportunities since last week!” – Nzwaki Adonisi 

“I really enjoyed facilitating the session as it addresses real issues faced when investing in African SMEs. I look forward to future collaborations with Small Foundation.” – Deji Abedusoye 

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