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Economic Development | World Vision

Build hope through economic development

Our impact through microfinance and more

1.3 billion people worldwide are living on less than $1.25 a day. When you’re that far behind, it’s hard to get ahead. That’s why we facilitate savings groups, improve market development, and provide access to microfinance, helping to break the cycle of poverty. These accomplishments represent some of our 2015 impact:

1.1 million

microloan borrowers

Thanks to the support of World Vision donors all around the world in 2015.


farmers linked to markets

Thanks to the support of World Vision donors all around the world in 2015.


savings group members

Thanks to the support of World Vision donors all around the world in 2015.

Evaluations and Evidence

In our market access work, World Vision uses the push/pull approach to build the capacity of the extreme poor to engage in markets and expand the diversity and quality of their accessible economic opportunities. A collection of case studies by the SEEP Network highlighted our work in Haiti with the USAID-funded Sak Plen Resiliencey Enhancement Program. See pages 3-7 of the publication (PDF).

Over the past several years, development practitioners have increasingly recognized that sustainable poverty alleviation for the extremely poor living on less than US$1.25 per person per day requires greater coordination between programs and strategies focused on expanding household incomes and food security and programs focused on larger-scale market development. World Vision, CARE, and ACDI/VOCA share their experiences with push-pull strategies and lessons learned in a peer-reviewed article in the most recent issue of the Enterprise Development and Microfinance journal. You can read the article here.


Our Approach

+ Where does economic development fit in the timeline of World Vision’s community work?

When we first partner with a community, we work to address the basic needs — like food, water, healthcare, and education. Then we can address more complex community needs, such as skill training, community-managed savings and loan groups, and microfinance to fuel the local economy.

We train those in need to grow their business, improve farming methods, and work together to form cooperatives. This helps parents become better providers for their children. And those children grow up better nourished, better educated, and better equipped to break the cycle of poverty.

+ What does economic development mean in the communities where you work?

We help communities solve economic problems by investing in their entrepreneurial spirit through microfinance, savings groups, and market/value chain development.

  • Microfinance provides individuals and groups with the opportunity to take out small loans to enable them to start or grow a business. These loans are $582 on average and are repaid at a rate of 95.5 percent. World Vision donors provide the capital for the loans, which are managed and dispersed through VisionFund International, a World Vision subsidiary. Once the loans are repaid, they are recycled back into the community.
  • Through savings groups, we train community members to save money on a regular basis. These groups of 15 to 25 members meet weekly to put money into a joint savings account, and they can take turns borrowing money.
  • Instead of farming just to feed their families, many subsistence farmers want to do more. They want to meet the demand for crops, livestock, or products in bigger and more distant markets. We train farmers to form producer groups, select suitable products, improve the value of their products, and negotiate for better prices.

+ How does World Vision work to break the poverty cycle in poor communities?

Breaking the poverty cycle is a complex, multi-sectoral process that varies greatly from country to country and community to community. However, a child’s parents have the greatest influence on their child’s economic well-being (EWB). Our strategy focuses on raising the EWB of individual households, helping to break the poverty cycle within that family and, consequently, the greater community.

Microfinance, savings groups, and market/value chain development are three ways World Vision empowers individuals to start their own businesses, learn savings habits, and improve their farming, which enables them to provide for their families. We also work with individuals to train them in business operation, gardening, and agriculture.

While breaking the poverty cycle does not rely entirely on families improving their EWB, the encouragement a family receives from having their own business and being self-sustaining is instrumental to transforming the lives of their children, other families in their community, and the community as a whole.

+ How does microfinance work?

  1. Hardworking entrepreneurs, typically women with no credit history or collateral, apply for small loans to start or grow a business.
  2. Donors choose an entrepreneur to fund.
  3. The loan is managed and dispersed through World Vision’s microfinance subsidiary, VisionFund International.
  4. The entrepreneur makes payments on the loan until it is repaid.
  5. The repaid loan money recycles back into the community, funding more loans.
  6. As the entrepreneur’s business grows, they are able to buy more food, medical care, clothing, and more — things that improve the well-being of their children and help grow their community’s economy.

Our Areas of Impact

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Clean Water

The foundation of life, health, and freedom from poverty

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Child Protection

Preventing child trafficking, child labor, exploitation, abuse, and neglect

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Disaster Relief

Life-saving emergency relief and long-term response

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Economic Development

Financial empowerment for communities

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Equipping children for a future of opportunity

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Food & Agriculture

Building food security; fighting hunger and malnutrition

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Promoting well-being for children, families, and communities

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U.S. Work

Assisting and empowering our American neighbors

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Our Faith

Following Jesus’ example through our global work

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Promoting gender equality to bring fullness of life for all

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