From Rwanda to Denver and Back: Ideas Across Continents

Over the last two and a half years, I have been based in East Africa, primarily leading TWB programs in Rwanda. During that time, we have grown from one training group to five graduated groups, culminating in the establishment of two Tanzanian and four Rwandan bakeries.

A goal, and outcome, we have always held is that bakery groups can learn from one another. We envision and strive for a collaborative network, where ideas and successes are shared, strategies for overcoming obstacles dispersed, and mutual growth is spurred between bakeries. We encourage trainees and graduates to visit other sites, and frequently, we bring bakery employees from operating bakeries to lead specialized sessions during the training of new groups. This collaboration across the bakery network can encourage, bolster confidence among the women, and inspire innovation.

On my most recent trip home, I spent time in our Denver office where, among (many) other things, we are developing a model for US programs. The initial ideas are drawn from our current model in Rwanda, adapting elements to meet the needs of a different consumer market and trainee population. As these plans come to life for our pilot model in the States, I find that not only can we draw from the existing model, successes, and challenges in Rwanda, but we can also apply new expansion ideas for the US to strategies in Rwanda.

As our team designs a new program for an entirely new space, I have been able to step back from the day to day of Rwanda operations and look at our current programs with a new lens. Innovating the Rwanda model for US expansion also gives us the opportunity to innovate the US model for East African expansion. Like the individual bakeries and trained women, TWB as an organization benefits from collaboration, building and exchanging ideas across countries and models.