Human Capital – a lesson learnt

Last night one of our Directors, Louise Smith, was on the panel at the very first Guernsey International Development Network event. The focus of the event was how trade and working practices around the world are helping to shape, and reshape, the climate crisis.

One of the questions that the panel were asked by moderator Emilie McSwiggan was what lessons can we learn from the work in developing countries. For me, and this is confirmed with every visit to our projects, the biggest lesson we can learn is the human capital within the communities that we work in. If you were to google the term ‘Human Capital’ you would get a variety of definitions, and what I mean by human capital in this post is the talent, skills, capabilities and energy within communities.

The OECD has a good definition; “the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances”.

In communities today where technology and TikTok videos are replacing conversations and society is feeling more and more fractured day by day learning from the human capital from the communicates we work within is needed more than ever.

What does this human capital look like within the communities? On my most recent visit to our projects in Uganda I experienced it in a couple of ways.

1.Our savings and loans groups are far from transactional. Our groups usually have around 25 to 30 members, with circa 80% of members are female and you would think that they would be primarily transactional with people saving money, taking out loans and paying back loans previously taken out. Nothing about our groups meeting up is transactional. The group coming together each week is a family or community event, some members that I met would walk for 2-3 hours to attend a group. They do this because of their commitment to other group members and the value they hold on spending time with other people who are also part of this rural community. The value spending time with each other. Yes our groups exist to provide people with the ability and opportunity to save and loan money but when the group comes together and spend a good few hours together they are sharing business ideas, challenges they face and encouraging each other.

2.The action audit – a wild celebration. Again, the action audit (where group members collect their savings at the end of the one year group cycle) should be totally transactional. Turn up, pick up your savings, go home. I have now attended 3 different action audits and they are essentially a day long celebration. Group members bring their family along to the action audit, there is music, singing, dancing and a feast of locally grown food. Everyone celebrates each others success, again, they travel for miles to spend time with each other, sharing ideas and how they can further help their community.

3.Coming together to solve problems. Every time I have visited our projects I have seen how a rural community has come together to solve a problem. One example was a how members of a community pulled their profits from their smalls businesses together and funded the build of a primary school…but not only did they fund the building of the school, but they now fund teacher salaries from their small businesses. This community had NO PRIMARY SCHOOL. A population of over 100,000 in the region and no primary school. There are now over 250 children getting an education because a community came together and solved a problem. Another example is the use of the social fund within our groups. This is often used for emergencies to help out group members. This help can range from emergency medical care to paying for funeral costs.

This is human capital and we can learn so much from these amazing communities.


Our work focuses on empowering community driven change and providing a help up rather than a handout.