Integra Ventures is dedicated to empowering the poor and transforming communities in Central and Eastern Europe. They believe in holistic service, local partnerships, and effective training—all in an effort to bring salt and light in the marketplace.
— Paul Borthwick
 

Financial Education for the Vulnerable

Integra is committed to long term impact. Spiritually this means challenging clients with the Gospel. Practically this means implementing strategies designed to achieve long term success for individuals and communities.

In October 2007 a program was launched that sought to introduce those most vulnerable to critical financial education in the changing market economies of Central and Eastern Europe. Originally the project was funded by the EU through the Grundtvig Life Learning Program.

The first stage of the project involved training staff members from the organizations to deliver effective financial education. In turn, these staffers would integrate financial training into existing programs.

As an outgrowth of this training, Integra has offered financial education training to 50 young couples, who participated through a broader pre-marital training course that staffer Adi Bann has been teaching at a local church. The training was delivered in a relaxed context where people were open and willing to learn how to build their family budget, plan their finances, and make wise financial decisions.As a result, participants were able to avoid making the mistakes of others who have committed their families to deceptive offers of consumer loans. Expanding free markets have witnessed some unscrupulous profiteers taking advantage of the financially naive. Adequate education helps the public make wise decisions on where--and where not--to spend money.

 

Our Partners in This Project

Our partners in this project were The Microfinance Center of Poland, Integra Foundation of Slovakia, Autonomia Foundation of Hungary, Network Credit of Norway, The European Microfinance Network of France, and Evers & Jung of Germany.

The effort's main aim was to train staff and improve educational delivery methods designed to enhance the financial literacy of vulnerable adults. The goal was to reach substantial numbers of individuals with critical information that would guide their everyday financial decisions.

Organizational staff highly praised the impact of the meetings for their own personal development. The meetings addressed logistical and communication skills; leading larger conference-style meetings; preparing case studies and other presentations; and helped develop public speaking skills and leadership abilities.

The discussions sought to increase staff knowledge about financial education in other parts of Europe. Participants were required to be proficient in English, as it served as the language of the partnership. However meetings were held in different countries also providing a chance to practice French, Hungarian, or German.

 

The Online Resource Center

A web-based resource center (www.fevagroup.org) for providers was created and will be continued after the end of the project. Additionally, a European network of organizations that work on financial education for vulnerable groups has been formed to facilitate policy development and share experiences.

Integra continues to seek funding for ongoing training in this arena, a key component of sustainable, long term development on a practical level. The end goal, beyond personal financial responsibility, is to foster stewardship within local bodies of believers. Financially responsible Christians will be more effective in leading and funding local ministries, thus reducing dependence on outside resources.

For more information on this project, and other aspects of Integra's work, please contact Brad Byrd, president of Integra USA.