Support for Microenterprise as Asset-Building: Concepts, Good Practices, and Measurement

This paper proposes that building assets—be they human, financial, or social—plays a fundamental role on the development of microenterprise, that is, very small businesses owned by people of modest means. This new view expands beyond the current focus on training and loans to include savings services and networks of social capital. This is useful because most new ventures depend more on savings than on loans and because social networks are key—if invisible—business assets that people of modest means often lack. The outputs of microenterprise-support programs and the intermediate and final outcomes of self-employment can also be seen (and measured) in terms of asset building.

The first section considers the definition of a microenterprise and why the asset-building perspective is useful. The next section describes concepts and “good practices” in microenterprise-support programs as seen through the lens of asset-building. The following section describes the benefits of microenterprise development, again in terms of assets. The final section outlines an asset-based framework for measuring progress and performance.

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