Economic Development

Bridges supports economic development by setting up community-managed funds that provide interest free loans to community members for small businesses, agricultural inputs, and more. Bridges conducts diagnostic studies with communities to better understand their economic potential, and facilitate workshops and trainings for entrepreneurs, and community leaders to ensure successful business endeavors.

Bridges to Community works to promote economic development in a variety of ways:

  • Through our housing project, families contribute to a community fund that is used to provide small business loans to community members, among other priorities.
  • Community leaders receive training to manage payments to the fund, to write business proposals and other business related training.
  • We make diagnostic studies that help communities to better understand which business options are economically viable.
  • We also provide training to entrepreneurs so they can move forward with their new businesses.

Within the context of the housing project, beneficiary families contribute to the economic development of their communities by paying $10 a month for 7 years to a community fund that the community can use to provide small loans to families to open businesses, improve their homes, purchase water pumps, build irrigation infrastructure or repair schools and clinics in their community. Communities can also pool resources with other communities to maximize leverage where appropriate. In countries such as Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, where access to credit is difficult or impossible to obtain, the community fund provides a way for families to improve their livelihoods and homes at 0% interest. Community leaders receive training from Bridges to Community to manage payments to the fund, to write business proposals and otherwise maximize its impact. As these dollars are invested in the community, it is typical that for every $100 invested, you see $45 of secondary spending (impact of money invested multiplier).

We also support economic development through diagnostic studies that help communities to better understand which business options are more economically viable. We then provide them with the training they need to move forward with their new businesses. An example of this work is taking place in Siuna, where BTC has been asked by a community to help develop a poultry farm. During the next year, we will help them thoroughly assess different techniques and best practices. The expectation is that they will construct a chicken coop that will house the first 300 birds they purchase. These birds will be used to produce the chickens that will be raised until they can either be sold at the market or be used to lay eggs. Money from the sale of the eggs and of the chicks will go back into purchasing more producing birds, so the process will be self-sufficient. In addition to diversifying income sources, there is interest in improving the community’s diet as a whole. This project will also contribute to the protection of the environment by reducing the amount of deforestation that occurs with the expansion of agriculture.In several communities across Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, Bridges is engaging in creative reforestation projects that offer economic incentives to protect the land and water resources. Large-scale commercial and slash-and-burn agriculture has decimated forests and left the land vulnerable to landslides and droughts. Drought is causing a decreased availability of clean drinking water. Soil erosion has led to poor crops, leaving subsistence farmers unable to provide food for their families. It has also caused an increase in respiratory issues as a result of dust storms. During the next year, BTC plans to help plant 9,000 trees in the Dominican Republic with help from youth committees.  This will build on the over 4,825 trees already planted, which provide a mixture of shade and produce.

Economic Development News

The Ripple Effect of Building 1 House

Juan dreamed of opening a local pharmacy and continued working at the hospital, saving every penny, to add a storefront extension on his new home. Juan was then awarded a $1,500 loan from the Sasle community fund to purchase medicine…

Read Full Story

The Bridges Intern Corner: What does economic development mean with Bridges?

“In the village I worked in, Ticuantepe, the community formed its own legal cooperative to better manage their community fund.  Now, Bridges to Community no longer has projects there, but the community has been able to continue to grow and utilize its community fund, supporting local businesses and even building its own houses for families in need.” 

Read Full Story

Beneficiary Family Testimonial: Karelia

“I paid off the first loan, and also started a small sewing business out of my home.  I combine to the two things in order to provide for my children, now 9 and 12 years old.”

Read Full Story

Beneficiary Family Testimonial: Tamariz

“The situation we were in before made it so that we…couldn’t dedicate sufficient time to our children,” Tamariz laments.  She describes how back then, she had been working at a factory and her husband for a company.  They were both coming home late at night, and leaving very early in the morning.

Read Full Story

More Under This Section