We live and work in Bukavu, South Kivu and use our local knowledge and cultural sensitivity to identify and support those people and opportunities with the potential to create social and economic progress
It's not easy. The security situation is improving but still there is no peace in many parts of Kivu. The infrastructure is boroken and receives little investment, which means the roads are often impassable,
electricity is intermittent or non-existent and health services are very limited. Kivu is also very poor with more than two thirds of the population living on less than $1 per day.
But the people are strong and hard working and amongst them are many social entrepreneurs with good ideas and the capacity and determination needed to move forward
We do this in two ways, firstly by facilitating financial support from socially-motivated investors in Europe and the USA. We manage the process through to exit and we underpin the relationship with business advice and mentoring. If the businesses in Kivu outgrow our financial resources we work with them to find higher levels of funding
Secondly we are integrating design and technology to help businesses achieve a higher level of progress for themselves and a transformative impact in the communities. To do this we are applying a design-led approach to ensure that technology use in Kivu is relevant to our context and delivers real and everyday benefits to the people
Since the early days we have supported a wide spectrum of businesses that deliver benefits to the wider community, including small businesses that reach hundreds of people as well as larger businesses that reach tens of thousands of people. With time and experience we’ve learned that systemic progress in the community and the region as a whole depends on the larger social businesses and that these fall within three domains:
That in developed countries are taken for granted but which in Kivu are broken or never existed. They include power, transport, internet provision and health service
Such as soap and cloth that are well understood and which can scale with the introduction of equipment and improved processe
That can be sold to buyers in cities or abroad, including coffee, rice and cassav
Patrick Byamungu studied social science and worked in rural development before building a reputation as a journalist and videographer able to capture the reality of people’s daily life. He is a co-founder and director of Ensemble
Jean Moreau Tubibu has for a long time been active in the cultural life of Bukavu, producing educational films, hosting awareness seminars and mentoring youth. With Ensemble he is implementing research into the needs and aspirations of the people in Kivu
Mike Beeston is also a co-founder and director. He used to be the Chairman of Fjord (www.fjordnet.com) in London and previously co-founded razorfish (www.razorfish.com) in the UK having initially worked for Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising
Narcisse Aghanze finished her studies in Kampala where she earned a degree in Business and IT before returning to Bukavu to set up her own business. She works for Ensemble to manage the finances and monitor several projects
Alvantyo Mihigo is a self-taught technologist. Before Ensemble he worked for an internet cafes in Bukavu to help set up and manage their network. He now works with our partners to develop their web sites and implement the collaborative projects with Fjord
Our recent work with Fjord to support New Hope Hospital and set up the Pamoja internet service on Idjwi Island has demonstrated the value of using design and technology expertise to significantly improve the situation here in Kivu. Fjord has contributed equipment as well as expertise whilst our role has been to ensure implementation is done in the local context and in response to the needs of the local people
Fjord are working with us going forward to ensure that design and technology combined with investment in social business is an effective long-term development strategy. They are also committed to concurrently working with Ensemble to help us develop our own internal capacity so that we can sustain this strategy in the future
Falling Whistles are also a close partner. They use their skills in story telling, social organisation and advocacy to build awareness of the situation in DRC and help catalyse actions by the world community. In Kivu we have been collaborating on the ground for two years in support of CPNCK, the coffee cooperative on Idjwi, together with Shalom and Liaison Congo in Bukavu
More recently Anders Olsson from Falling Whistles has led the installation of technology solutions at New Hope Hospital and at Bugurula on Idjwi. Our development strategy needs specialist help on the ground from people like Anders and he is now reaching out to the Falling Whistles network to find specialists who are able to contribute their time and expertise
Luminosity is a community interest company (CIC) registered in the UK that is providing financial support in the form of loans to many of the social businesses managed by Ensemble Pour la Difference, including Liaison Congo, New Hope Hospital and Shalom. Like us, Luminosity aims to help those Congolese entrepreneurs who are working to improve daily life and build businesses for the common good as well as their own.
This aim and approach is also supported by Harriet Hall and Nigel Langstaff, both of whom are philanthropic investors financing social businesses in Kivu. Harriet is co-supporting New Hope Hospital with Luminosity and collaborating with Nigel to support Altech and the installation of a micro hydro-electric power station that will be online soon.
Falling Whistles are financially supporting Liaison Congo and Shalom and working with Luminosity to secure additional finances that will help continue our program
We have friends and supporters amongst the American Tribal Style® dance community that has studios throughout the USA and Europe. They have collaborated with Ensemble to initiate two ‘Sister to Sister’ projects, one that addresses the need for contraception whilst a second is focused on women who are victims of gender based violence and sexual violence.
The contraception project is on the island of Idjwi where UFIN has succeeded in educating 5,000 women and their partners in the value of family planning. The ATS community provides financial support to enable the women to purchase contraceptive implants. The project in response to violence is in collaboration with CVPD in Goma, the result of which is a sewing workshop in Sake, North Kivu, where women from a variety of backgrounds can earn income and respect from the community
Civil society groups are local organisations including NGOs and cooperatives that have formed to improve the situation in the community. Some groups focus on human rights and help support people who have suffered abuse, others focus on practical solutions, for example by teaching women to sew. They have credibility with the authorities and a deep knowledge and understanding of the local situation.
To be effective on the ground we sometimes work in collaboration with a civil society group that can advise and help us implement the offer of loans for groups of people who wish to set up businesses
UFIN is the women’s group in North Idjwi that is led by Madame Esperance, the wife of the Mwami. The group has nearly 700 members and has built a compound where women can meet, cook, garden and learn to sew
The Coalition des Volontaires pour la Paix et le Developpement (CVPD) is a Congolese NGO who work closely with women’s groups in several towns in North Kivu, including Sake, Bweremana and Masisi. The organisation is led by Arnold Djuma, who has worked for many years as a brave advocate for the rights of people who have suffered from violence and slavery.