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Work4Progress by the ”la Caixa” Foundation

The World Bank indicates that today we have the largest young generation in  
human history. However, one in four young people cannot find a job where they earn over USD 1.25 a day, which is the international threshold for extreme poverty. Furthermore, the International Labour Organization indicates that two out of every five young people are unemployed. This  problem is even more serious for women, who are up to 27% less likely to find employment than men.

For this reason, and in line with the 2030 agenda, the Work4Progress (W4P) programme, launched in 2017 by the ”la Caixa” Foundation, focuses on women and young people in vulnerable situations in India, Mozambique, Peru, and Colombia. The programme aims to promote innovation and quality employment for these groups, with special emphasis on sustainable technological innovation, and green jobs in rural areas.

Work4Progress wants to go beyond supporting isolated projects, by promoting social innovation platforms for collective action and learning, where innovative solutions can be scaled, especially inclusive businesses that generate employment for women and young people. A network made up of 50 partner organisations (from civil society, academia, and the public and private sectors), both from Spain and from the countries where it is working is currently involved in the programme. 

Since its creation, W4P has incorporated innovation strategies into all of its components. To this end, it promotes new tools for listening to and identifying needs in the communities; for co-creating and prototyping with partners and beneficiaries; and for scaling up for the most efficient technological innovation and employment-generating initiatives.

To date, the programme has reached over 140,000 people. Of these, over 60% are women and over 46% are young people, defining and testing 166 prototypes of businesses, services, and technological innovations that have made it possible to launch over 19,000 inclusive companies and generate over 40,000 new jobs.

The programme actively seeks to create job opportunities for young people living in rural areas. The listening phase has shown, in all countries where W4P is implemented, that young people aim at finding employment beyond working in the fields.

To respond to this need, within the framework of W4P initiatives have been launched especially aimed at this young population, such as business development centres to train, incubate and accompany youth entrepreneurship; job exchanges for the incorporation of young people into the labour market in local companies; vocational training lines and work experience schemes in local companies; lines of credit specifically aimed at young people; or a network of kiosks to support entrepreneurs run by young people, among others. All of this has enabled over 18,000 jobs to be created for young people.

The experimental impact evaluation of the W4P programme in Peru carried out by the Grade Institute has enabled observation of a positive change in narratives among young people: 43% consider that there are more economic opportunities in their community (compared to 19% in communities where the programme has not been implemented).

The Work4Progress programme has been designed following a Think and Do Tank methodology, according to which the affiliated organizations experiment in the field, while at the same time through progress evaluation and the collaboration of an external advisory committee, this knowledge is captured and shared with think and do tanks at the international level. Thus, in addition to fieldwork, it promotes spaces for the generation of knowledge such as events, publications and the W4P Virtual Lab, the online space where all the organisations involved converge.

The ”la Caixa” Foundation promotes alliances with other donor organisations to incorporate more funds into the programme with the ultimate goal of achieving a greater impact. Examples of these are the alliances with SBI Foundation in India, or with Fundación Grupo Social in Colombia. Since 2017, the W4P programme has managed to add 37% of co-financing to the funds provided by the ”la Caixa” Foundation.

It iscurrentlyworkingonanimpactinvestment strategy with the aim of developing innovative financing instruments, beyond non-reimbursable funds and in collaboration with local actors. The aim is to expand and accelerate economic and employment creation initiatives, especially inclusive businesses for women and young people that demonstrate greater potential for impact  
and sustainability.

Acknowledgements

The programme has received several accolades so far, such as its presentation at the Paris Peace Forum 2023 and at the Impact Week organised by the European Venture Philanthropy Association (Turin, 2023).
It has also been positively assessed in reports such as the Cotec Report on Innovation (2020) and Taking the pulse of the European Foundation Sector, by the ESADE Center for Social Impact, in 2022. For its part, W4P India won the Development Catalysts 2022 award for its systemic impact.

Previously, W4P had received the SDG Good Practices award in 2021 and the Iberdrola Award for Energy Cooperation (2019); the United Nations  Development Programme had adopted it as a good practice (2019) and the World Bank had included it in its portfolio of “Solutions for Youth Employment” (2019). These examples illustrate the benefits that the programme has produced in a range of contexts and from diverse perspectives.

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