5.4 Practical, Experiential Learning Opportunities Facilitated by People Who Have Entrepreneurial Experience Allow At-Risk Young People a Chance to Develop Business Skills in Safe Settings

Gang involved or at-risk young people, like many youth, generally prefer concrete hands-on activities to classroom learning. CRS found that young people in their program did not want to talk about entrepreneurship or listen to lectures—they wanted to experience it directly. The Build Your Own Business Component (CREA) of the program starts with a week-long chance for young people to develop a business with five dollars (from either their money or money or provided by the program). This low-risk entry into entrepreneurship responded to young people’s concerns about risk related to taking a loan and allowed young people to acquire practical business skills and learn about their aptitudes and interest in enterprise development. After the CREA exercise, the program continued with business planning, provision of seed capital, saving and lending groups, link to Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and enterprise development training.

5.4.1 Noteworthy Results: Working with At-Risk Youth

In adapting YouthBuild’s model to the Central American context, CRS learned valuable lessons about working with at-risk and gang-involved youth. Since Central America has high rates of violent crime connected to gang activity, addressing this problem is considered critical to the future of the region. CRS began in 2008 with a pilot that reached 100 youth. From 2009-2011, the program reached 560 youth.

  • 42 percent of total were gang involved
  • 45 percent of the total were young women
  • 58 percent in jobs or with enterprises
  • 35 percent return to school

In 2011 to 2014, the program will be expanded to reach 3,600 youth with funding from USAID.

For more information, see www.crsprogramquality.org/storag/pubs/microfinance/20110901_gangs_ web.pdf.