PROWESS helps Saint Lucian agency get proposal right
Organisations often know they require technical and financial assistance.
However, for many, accessing this help is a challenge rooted in their inability to produce effective written proposals which convince funding agencies to back their various business plans.
The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has recognised this deficit and has created an effective support system to assist those in the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) sector strengthen their proposal writing capacity.
In so doing, the MSMEs are successful at unlocking some of the funding available regionally and internationally.
The Proposal Writing Education and Support System (PROWESS) is a facility offered through the Bank’s MSME Unit and was established as a direct response to this problem area for MSMEs which lacked the necessary resources within their structure.
The St Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) tapped the PROWESS facility as it undertook a project to assist agro-processors and other stakeholders to receive critical training in packaging, as well as labelling standards.
Under the Proposal Writing Support for Business Support Organisations project, the SLBS collaborated with the country’s Small Business Development Centre and received USD100,275 from the Bank for its work.
Dr. Xanthe Dubuison, Head of the St Lucia Bureau of Standards’ Certification Department conceded the original proposal “fell short of the CDB’s requirements”.
However, she spoke highly of the MSME Unit’s assigned consultant who helped the SLBS refine and enhance the proposal to improve its chances of being approved by the regional financial institution.
“Our consultant guided us in several areas as we needed to have more statistics in the project document, which we did not have in relation to our experience with label assessments and compliance in Saint Lucia.
“We had some ideas of what we wanted to do but the consultant really worked with us to finalise and come up with the project activities,” Dr Dubuison recalled.
As a result, the project was recently approved, and the agency started on the deliverables in January 2023, which include training in packaging and labelling for MSMEs in the agro-processing, light manufacturing and some areas of fashion and craft production. Some 200 individuals and 15 MSMEs are expected to benefit from the training.
Outlining the importance of the initiative to MSMEs in St Lucia, Dr. Dubuison highlighted the agency’s research of the last two years that uncovered more than 50 per cent of locally labelled products did not meet the country’s standards.
“If you have a situation where our businesses are not even meeting our local standards, they are going to be extremely challenged to meet the standards for export markets. Ultimately, we want our businesses to meet our requirements as well as be in a position to export,” the senior St Lucia government official observed.
It is part of the responsibility of the SLSB to ensure there is compliance and to assist businesses in identifying those standards and aid where possible to meet the requirements.
She observed: “Your ability to package your product attractively can impact its marketability and combined with quality labelling that meets international standards contribute to product safety.”
“We want consumers to be assured that what labels say is contained in a product, that’s exactly what’s in it and in the correct amounts.”
She noted her department had discovered instances where products did not identify and declare in the labels all the ingredients present, while producers “made claims on labels about what a product can do. . . and as a result some manufacturers had to go back to the drawing board because they could not substantiate claims that were made on their labels.”
Dr. Dubuison hailed the PROWESS initiative of the CDB. She pointed out: “The value of the proposal writing assistance was reflected in the fact that our project funding was approved by the CDB. The original document that we submitted was hollow and so the assistance provided allowed us to define exactly what we wanted.
“Proposal writing is not something that everyone is capable of doing well, especially when you are dealing with an institution that requires such very high standards.”
More importantly, the teams at SLBS and the Small Business Development Centre of the Ministry of Commerce are thankful for the exposure to sharpen their skills in proposal writing and knowledge of the template for greater success in seeking project financing.