Anita Davis examines the next stage in the development of the East Bali Cashews social enterprise
With the GunungAgung volcano setting a striking background in the distance, a team of toddlers in matching pink t-shirts play on a rainbow jungle gym for the first time. This jungle gym, provided by Cognita, sits as part of a brand new playground at the AnaKardia Kids Early Learning Center deep in the jungles of Desa Ban, and is a unique display of modernity in a community where villagers earn an average of less than US$2 a day.
“The children are happy and curious to learn new games,” said KututSuri, one of the seven newly-hired teachers at AnaKardia Kids, opened by eco-friendly cashew producer East Bali Cashews (EBC) in April. “They are learning to love school at an early age because they love to play.”
Like her young pupils, Suri also wears a powder pink t-shirt, with the words “Happy, Healthy, Smart (Sehang, Sehat, Pintar)” printed on the back. The simple phrase, chosen by the parents of the students as the school motto, is meaningful because it captures the essence of AnaKardia Kids’mission:give the children of Desa Ban a head-start in life by providing quality early education, nutritional support and family health education.
US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake visited East Bali Cashews and served as the Guest of Honor at the opening of the Early Learning Center.
“It’s a wonderful and unique story because it shows that it’s possible to bring prosperity and social development to every corner of Indonesia,” Blake said. “And I think this can be replicated on a very wide scale to other parts of eastern Indonesia.”
In providing women with job opportunities, the founder of EBC, American entrepreneur Aaron Fishman, his wife Lindsay White and members of the company’s board found that it was necessary to give these employees an opportunity to continue their work without concern for child care, which would improve their livelihoods and those of their families.
“So much of our social mission centres on advancing women’s status and autonomy – we cannot do that without taking their families into consideration,” said Amy Cardamone, co-founder of AnaKardia Kids with Lindsay White and wife of Rezal Kusumaatmadja, chairman of EBC’s Board of Commissioners. “Launching AnaKardia Kids was a natural next step.”
AnaKardia Kids fills a social gap in Desa Ban: the community does not provide education for children before the age of six. The new learning centre aims to provide comprehensive pre-elementary school education for children predominantly aged 2.5 to 5.5, preparing them for public school and giving them an additional resource to rise above poverty.
Path to AnaKardia Kids
EBC itself had partnered with leading global investment firm KKR and Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), a leader in development through impact investment, to receive technical assistance to scale its production and hire more villagers. In 2013, members of KKR’s private equity team met withEBC’s team on a pro bono basis to develop a financial model and business plan, assess the appropriate capital structure and liquidity requirements for the business and create an investment structure for new funds, which enabled the company to raise US$900,000 and expand its operations.
Following EBC’s fundraising success, members of KKR furthered EBC’s cause by donatingmore than US$30,000 out-of-pocket for the construction of AnaKardia Kids’ main building. Fishman and EBC’s story also reached the Direct Aid Program under the Australian Consulate General in Bali, which donated capital for the construction of two buildings. Red River Foods Group, a leading US importer of tree nuts, dried fruit, seeds and specialty snack products,subsidized operational costs for 60 children for one year, and Indonesia’s Kalbe Group, one of the largest publicly listed pharmaceutical companies in Southeast Asia, funded a healthy eating programme and terrace classroom.
“East Bali Cashews has gained excellent traction over the course of one year,” said Steve Okun, Director of Public Affairs for KKR Asia. “The company’s story has caught the attention of businesses looking to support a social enterprise through their CSR efforts. Having businesses work with a business like EBC improves the lives of Desa Ban villagers in a sustainable way. And there is no better example of that than in what Cognita is doing with them.”
Calling on Cognita
Direct funding from corporations was not the only assistance EBC received for its learning center: teachers from Singapore’s Stamford American International School (SAIS) – operated byKKR’s portfolio partner Cognita – volunteer their time to create lesson plans andtrain the teachers at the centre twice per year. Cognita also donated suppliesand playground equipment. Cognita signed-up to the program when learning of the plan from the school from KKR.
As part of the partnership with East Bali Cashews, four SAIS teachers were selected to be the first group to visit AnaKardia Kids and lay the groundwork for its launch. The teachers spent their April holiday week meeting with Desa Ban teachers to provide them with training and put their lesson plans into action.
“Our approach centers on inquiry play-based learning, which generates a real willingness and eagerness to learn,” said Alex Clearly, a fourth grade teacher at SAIS. “We’ve found that there has been a real receptiveness to this approach at the early learning centre.”
“We aim to make this sort of lesson plan sustainable for the school, and have tried to create lessons using materials that can be found in this part of the world,” noted Amy McClellan, a first grade teacher at SAIS. “We’ve been using bottle tops and reusable materials that can be repeated not just in AnaKardia Kids but can be taken to other village schools.”
Launching AnaKardia Kids
The goodwill EBC and the AnaKardia Kids team generated even before the school’s official launch was felt throughout Desa Ban. On April 17, AnaKardia Kids officially launched witha crowd of 400 in attendance, many of whom were local villagers and district officials.
“What is so special about the project is it empowers local people. It is a community-based entrepreneurship that is inspiring,” Blake said during his speech. “It’s a wonderful and unique story because it shows that it’s possible to bring prosperity and social development to every corner of Indonesia … I think this can be replicated on a very wide scale to other parts of eastern Indonesia.”
“It has been a dream come true to have received such strong backing, first from KKR and thenfrom such a widespread group of supporters,” said White. “We are tackling the low-hanging fruit of education, and it is gratifying to see how this has already had a positive impact on the women of the village. We hope that this model will be replicated and will have an even larger impact on this community than we had even imagined.”
Anita Davis is senior public affairs manager with KKR based in Hong Kong