How Grow Movement is Impacting Businesses Worldwide with Remote Volunteering

By Timothy Sweetnam

The world is a big place. The media tends to have a dehumanizing effect; it seems like the news stories which attract the most attention are those involving crime, corruption and devastation. It’s refreshing to be reminded that it takes as little as one idea to positively and significantly influence the lives of other human beings. This is the story of Violet Busingye and Chris Coghlan of Grow Movement.

Chris, an emerging markets hedge fund manager, and Violet, Grow Movement‘s manager, have come together to develop an organizational model that they believe will be able to provide business advice to entrepreneurs in the poorest billion. They believe that the idea is scalable.

Here is how it works: You have an entrepreneur in a third world country that is running his or her own business. You pair the entrepreneur up with a person with at least 5 years business experience who is willing to volunteer 2 hours per week to the cause. The pair speaks on the phone, exchanging information about the business and bouncing around ideas for the improvement and expansion of that business. The result is a transfer of knowledge at the cost of a telephone call (and the tab is picked up by Grow Movement!).

The result is much more than just a transfer of knowledge. In practice, these phone calls have far-reaching consequences. In a specific example Chris Coghlan gave in a TEDxTalk, a skilled entrepreneur was able to use the business advice from a remote volunteer consultant to grow his business by 8 employees. The cumulative effect of this, counting the dependent individuals of these 8 new employees, is that dozens of lives have been positively changed.

Not only does this project result in the tangible creation of income and wealth, but the project has intangible results as well. The project is cross-cultural, pairing peoples of diverse backgrounds and thereby busting preconceptions they might have had about a particular ‘type’ of people. The volunteer consultants come from every corner of the globe.

And to show how scalable the idea is, Grow Movement is doing this project with hundreds of people at a weekly cost of only $400. Now, I’m no investment expert, but I think it’s safe to conclude that there is a lot more than $400 worth of income generated by good, sound business advice, even if only half as successful as the example given by Chris in his TEDxTalk (see in depth results and analysis here).

I think the idea of remote volunteering is revolutionary. Traditionally, volunteering is viewed as boots-on-the-ground, gloves on kind of work, and while there is value in that, this is different. It’s about knowledge transfer; it’s about enhancing business capabilities by creating connections with skilled business people.

There is another idea that the movement brings forward, one that I think is completely correct: The idea is that the best people to lead development are the people in the community themselves. By creating wealth and jobs, there will be fewer unemployed and angry people, thereby reducing the potential for violence and conflict. The consequences of this idea, coming to life through the hard work of a handful of people, are far-reaching with both tangible and intangible effects.

Right now, Grow Movement has 100 volunteers who give 2 hours of their time per week. I know that when I have gained 5 years of business experience, it’s something that I am determined to be a part of.

What about you? Can your experience benefit those that could use your knowledge? Could you see yourself becoming a part of Grow Movement? Comment below.

Timothy Sweetnam Intern



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