People with Purpose: Getting down to grassroots business

Posted on 10 Jun 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Nooreen Dossa ygap

With just a little financial help, community-focused female entrepreneurs can help change the world, says Nooreen Dossa, philanthropy and partnerships manager at Ygap.

What is Ygap?

Ygap is an international not-for-profit organisation driven by a belief in the transformative power of locally led entrepreneurship to create sustainable and equitable change in the world.

Over the past 16 years, we have run more than 69 programs that have supported more than 752 ventures.

We support local businesses that have a social impact with innovative solutions to poverty and social inequality.

At Ygap, we back local ventures that address these critical issues within their communities by providing them with access to funding, business support and capacity building.

The majority are led by women and operate across Kenya, South Africa, the Pacific Islands and Australia.

Ygap has offices and local teams that lead our programs in each area where we work.

What is your role at Ygap, and how did you come to be involved with the organisation?

As the philanthropy and partnerships manager at Ygap, my role involves building and nurturing relationships with donors, partners and other stakeholders who are vital to our mission.

Before joining Ygap, I had the opportunity to work on various gender equity initiatives across India and Australia.

One of them involved working closely with women entrepreneurs in India, where I witnessed firsthand the transformational power of financially supporting women.

When women are empowered economically, the positive ripple effects are profound, improving not only their own lives but also the well-being of their families and communities.

As a member of the leadership team at Ygap, I work towards securing funding and creating strategic relationships that can amplify our impact.

My journey with Ygap began out of my strong personal commitment to social justice and gender equity.

I was inspired by Ygap's grassroots approach and the tangible difference they were making in underserved communities, which led me to join the organisation.

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"By focusing on locally led solutions, ygap ensures that the interventions are sustainable and culturally relevant."

How is Ygap making a difference?

Ygap makes a difference by identifying and empowering local entrepreneurs who have firsthand experience with the challenges in their communities.

We support these impact entrepreneurs through our accelerator programs, which offer them business training, mentorship and access to capital. This support helps them scale their ventures, create jobs, improve access to essential services, and drive economic growth within their communities.

By focusing on locally led solutions, Ygap ensures that the interventions are sustainable and culturally relevant.

In Australia, Ygap plays a crucial role in working with businesses with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) leadership. By addressing the need for inclusion and sustainability in business, we ensure that entrepreneurs have equal access to opportunities, resources and support. This inclusivity is essential for fostering a diverse and resilient economy.

Nooreen Dossa

What has been the highlight for you so far in your time at Ygap?

Witnessing the transformative power of our work firsthand. The one that will always stay with me was my first visit to the Ygap program in South Africa, where I met the most inspiring women entrepreneurs supported by the Ygap program in Johannesburg.

I met eight incredible women; each had a unique approach to business driven by a strong sense of purpose and vision. Some were engaged in environmentally conscious vegetable farming, while others innovatively repurposed plastic bags from landfills.

From sustainable agriculture and empowerment through indigenous crops to education-focused after-school programs and innovative agribusinesses, their enterprises are making a significant impact on their communities.

Their creativity and commitment to reshaping their businesses for the betterment of their communities left me in awe. It was heartwarming to learn how much they appreciate the Ygap accelerator programs and the mentoring and coaching they receive from our team in South Africa.

Another initiative I am excited about is yCapital, which addresses the funding gap faced by women-led businesses, who receive less than 3% of investment capital worldwide. At Ygap, we are determined to change that.

yCapital will provide business training, skill building, and 0% interest loans in growth capital to promising ventures led by women who have graduated from the Ygap accelerator programs. Through yCapital, we aim to bridge the significant funding gap and empower women entrepreneurs to expand their impact even further.

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Nooreen (second from right) and the ygap team.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in your not-for-profit world, what would it be?

If I could wave a magic wand, I would ensure that every not-for-profit organisation and social impact entrepreneur had access to unrestricted multi-year funding.

This type of funding is crucial as it allows organisations to be more flexible, innovative, and responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. It would enable us to plan long-term, invest in capacity building, and focus more on achieving our mission rather than constantly seeking the next funding source.

Additionally, I would like to see more targeted support for women entrepreneurs globally, recognising the unique challenges they face and the tremendous potential they have to drive sustainable development and social change.

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