Inspired by a year of volunteer service in the village of Adidome, Ghana, Ed Bullard established TechnoServe—short for “technology in the service of mankind”—in 1968. Bullard recognized that he could make a difference by connecting the villagers to crucial resources, providing them with the knowledge, skills, and tools they needed to raise themselves from poverty. According to TechnoServe, the organization “works with enterprising people in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. [TechnoServe has] worked in more than 40 countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia, assisting thousands of businesses and improving the incomes of millions of people.” TechnoServe now employs over 1,300 people, 90 percent of whom are “host-country nationals” coordinating TechnoServe initiatives on the ground.
The foundation of TechnoServe’s approach is to address market failures, or “constraints that prevent a market system from operating efficiently,” including “skills, technologies, availability of information, market linkages, access to finance, infrastructure, governance or policies.” The approach addresses such constraints in three ways: developing capacity, strengthening market connections, and improving the business environment. Following these three steps, TechnoServe has a proven track record of reducing poverty and improving the livelihood of individuals, families, and communities in the countries where they serve—their successes have been lauded by a wide range of sources, including the Harvard Business Review and non-profit consulting firm FSG.
In 2013 alone, TechnoServe transformed the lives of 2.2 million people in 30 countries by improving the capacity of local farms, businesses, and industries. Among other benefits, TechnoServe’s efforts resulted in new jobs, higher wages, expansion of businesses, and higher revenues for farmers. Some of TechnoServe’s current initiatives include growing a sustainable coffee industry, helping thousands of Maasai women launch a dairy business in Kenya, and providing sustainable support for smallholder cocoa farmers in Peru. According to TechnoServe’s 2013 progress report, the organization has upheld Bullard’s original goal: “True to Ed’s vision, we provide business solutions to poverty by linking people to information, capital and markets. With more than four decades of proven results, we believe in the power of private enterprise to transform lives.”
TechnoServe is fully committed to financial transparency, and has been awarded the highest rating (four stars) by leading charity evaluator Charity Navigator for eight consecutive years. TechnoServe receives the vast majority of funding from governments and multilateral organizations (43 percent in 2013) and foundations and organizations (36 percent in 2013). Private donors also provide vital financial support.