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Digital Innovation in Women’s Economic Empowerment


Building on the success of a decade of partnership, Opportunity and the Cisco Foundation are scaling the most successful interventions and using the newest digital innovations (i.e. generative AI-based solutions) and processes (i.e. human-centered design) to remove barriers and challenges for our target clients – people living in un- and under-served communities, with a particular focus on women clients, through the Digital Innovations in Women's Economic Empowerment project. 

  • Project Duration: 
  • Geographic Focus: Global
  • Partners: Cisco Foundation, Opportunity International

The Challenge


Our Approach

In partnership with Cisco Foundation, Opportunity aims to strengthen investment in the most recent digital innovations (i.e. generative AI-based solutions) to benefit our target clients and apply them to address key development challenges.

1. Launching Opportunity’s CoLab Model to generate and test early-stage ideas that have the highest potential to increase the scale of our impact and transform our service model.

With Cisco Foundation’s support, Opportunity built the staff capacity and initiated a digital innovations lab that creates a process and investment model to leverage most recent technology advances, such as generative AI-based solutions, by:

  • Engaging the creativity and deep client knowledge of Opportunity staff members to generate transformative ideas for our target clients
  • Prioritizing these ideas through structured human-centered design (HCD)
  • Taking risks though data-gathering experimentation 
  • Proving out prototypes that are worthy of deployment at increasing scale through rigorous and rapid market testing cycles

The CoLab is a factory of rapid learning using MIT’s Orbit innovation process and the Kickbox methodology developed by Adobe. The core engine of the CoLab is client-centered learning, starting with how we design, test and pilot ideas. In this process, our target clients become well-defined personas. Opportunity goes deep into understanding the challenges, key needs, dreams and aspirations of these personas using skilled coaches from the CoLab to design solutions, create paper prototypes and gain client feedback. Every concept is evaluated for viability, desirability, and feasibility. Through user testing, staff members refine their idea to a point of full development. If approved, concepts move into a pilot stage with added engineering and design resources. Only pilots that indicate the potential for significant scale and impact will graduate into our programs, where Opportunity implementing teams will deploy these market-ready solutions for our clients.

2. Expand and replicate Opportunity’s impactful technology-based programs such as women-to-women networks and savings groups digitization. Initiatives include:

Women as Agents of Change

With support from the Cisco Foundation, Opportunity International developed Women as Agents of Change program in India to train, equip and empower women as certified business correspondence agents (BC Agents) to provide last-mile financial services linking unbanked women to formal financial services and supporting them develop financial independence. Opportunity and its local partners are training women as BC Agents through a combination of in-person and online methods on our cloud-based digital learning platform that serves as a “one-stop-shop” for the trainings and BC certification program. This platform can be used anytime, anywhere, and on any device. It features a curated course of presentations and short, embedded videos designed to meet the requirements of the BC certification exam for apprentices to become legally certified by IIBF (Indian Institute of Banking and Finance) to operate as BC Agents. The learning platform is scalable to any number of participants and is ready to support all major languages in India, making it more inclusive for everyone.

Women agents serve more vulnerable people, including other women and socially disadvantaged populations. BCs help illiterate clients understand government benefit schemes and fill out forms to access funding. BCs serve as role models to others in the community, and provide financial advice, empowering marginalized populations with access to knowledge, tools, and resources.

Savings Group Digitization

There are an estimated 20 million savings group members globally across 77 countries, of which 78% of members are women. While women in savings groups use this powerful group model to build resilience and start microentereprises, they are invisible to the formal financial service providers (FSPs) and do not meet the criteria for access to finance when they need additional capital to grow their business. The transactional data (amount of savings in the lockbox, frequency of savings, attendance and trainings completed) sits in paper logs in remote locations with the savings group leaders, and is not easily accessible to FSPs to create altenative data sets and credit scoring models to qualify women for access to capital.

Digitizing the savings groups opens up several benefits to the group members:

  • Transition the savings groups transactional data from paper logs to digital databases creating the option of developing alternative credit scoring models to qualify women for finance
  • Link savings groups to FSPs to access additional credit increasing the liquidity in the lockbox, especially during the periods of high demand for credit (i.e. during planting season when all group members need access to input finance at the same time and there is not enough capital in the savings group lockbox to support all members)


  • Equip 2 million clients, 95% of whom are women, to build sustainable livelihoods
  • Impact an estimated 10 million lives

Project Details 


Women's Economic Empowerment


Cisco Foundation



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Through robust partnerships with organizations, financial institutions, and funders, Opportunity International is implementing a wide range of women's economic empowerment initiatives in communities and countries around the world.

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