Kula Project’s approach and solution to solving this problem is implemented through the five steps of the Kula Fellowship Program. These steps build the capacity of Fellows to create and manage viable businesses that can improve their livelihoods and allow them to maintain positive outcomes in the long-term. In addition, the steps we provide allow Fellows to build the skills necessary to create holistic impact for themselves, their families, and their communities. The Kula Fellowship is structured along a 15-month cycle, followed by a graduation model that provides support to Fellowship Alumni and allows for long-term progress evaluation.
Step one of the Fellowship is Relationship Building. Kula’s Rwandan staff conducts extensive baseline assessments with our cooperatives and spends relational time with Fellows and their families to know them both quantitatively and qualitatively. Beginning the project with a baseline is critical for Kula to be able to assess whether impacts are continuously generated over time and to be informed of how best to adapt training modules to the needs of Fellows.
Step two is Industry Training. Fellows participate in consistent and in-depth industry training, support, and follow-up to each of our fellows in their specific industry: coffee farming for Coffee Fellows and tailoring, weaving and agribusiness for Artisan Fellows. These industry trainings equip Fellows with the skills, techniques, and equipment to continue to improve the performance and productivity of their businesses.
Step three is Life and Leadership Skills, a holistic approach to livelihood and well-being that takes place alongside step two. Kula mentors conduct intensive training and one-on-one mentorship to Fellows in areas of Household Visioning and Action Planning, Financial Literacy, Business Leadership, Family Health and Nutrition, Family and Gender Equity, Self-Esteem, and Entrepreneurship. Kula mentors also provide personalized follow-up to each Fellow as they are applying lessons learned. By providing training that is not only aimed at increasing business capacity, but also aimed at increasing equity, inclusive leadership, and personal well-being, Kula is able to ensure that Fellows have the confidence, the community support, and the creative capacities to build better futures for themselves and for those around them.
Step four is Business Investment. After completing the trainings, Fellows have the opportunity to submit a business plan based on their learning which meets specific investment criteria. Selected Fellows are then provided a business investment ranging from $100 USD to $1,000 USD upon graduation, equipping them to improve their current businesses or launch new ones.
Step five of the Fellowship is Impact Measurement. We collect qualitative and quantitative data to monitor and evaluate the impact of our work throughout the Fellowship and after graduation. We then determine the best way to amend the Fellowship to support each person towards empowerment. As a result, Kula will be able to demonstrate in the short, medium, and long-term, the capacity of Fellows to sustain livelihood improvements independently, and to spark positive outcomes for themselves, their families, and their communities.