The Google Foundation supports select organizations whose work addresses the challenge of global poverty in ways that are effective, sustainable, and scalable. From time to time we invite guest bloggers from grantee organizations to tell their story.

TechnoServe helps entrepreneurs in developing countries build successful small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that benefit the world’s poor. (Watch our video here.) We provide a hand up, rather than a handout.

Recently, I spent several hours with Googlers who wanted to know more about what TechnoServe is doing in West Africa. I couldn’t help but notice the great, positive energy among Google employees -- a sense that motivated, imaginative, smart people can change the world.

TechnoServe’s engagement with Google involves using business to improve the lives of the world’s poor. SMEs are a major driver of sustained economic growth, creating a ripple effect that creates jobs, boosts incomes and leads to improved social services. But even though they can help reduce poverty, SMEs are precisely what the developing world lacks. These countries are home to many visionary entrepreneurs who are capable of launching and growing successful businesses. But they need help – to make sure their business ideas make sense, to plan and manage their enterprises, to find markets and financing, and to overcome technical challenges.

That’s where TechnoServe comes in. Since its founding, we have helped to create or improve more than 1,200 businesses, benefiting millions of people in 23 countries. We identify entrepreneurial men and women and then guide them in planning, marketing, operating and expanding businesses that are likely to succeed and help the poor. We then leverage these lead entrepreneurs to replicate and/or scale up their businesses and grow competitive, self-sustaining industries. Where necessary, we also tackle constraints in the industries’ enabling environments.

To complement all of this, we also run programs that promote a culture of entrepreneurship. One activity is business plan competitions, which help entrepreneurs turn good ideas into solid businesses. We have run these in Latin America and are now launching them in Africa. And that’s where the Google Foundation comes in: it’s helping us run a business plan competition in Ghana this year. All qualified entrants will come away with valuable business training. The winners will also receive vouchers for aftercare services to help them launch or expand their businesses, and 10 winners will also receive cash.

We’re looking forward to having Googlers actively engaged in this project. Our two entrepreneurially-focused organizations have joined forces, which we believe will lead to sustainable solutions for poverty alleviation.