The Working World

Brendan Martin.
A capacity-building and microcredit programme aimed at supporting the creation and scaling of cooperative businesses in low income communities through technical assistance, access to credit and training.
What solution does the innovation propose?

The initiative aims to create higher quality jobs, sustainable development, and promote democratic control over economic activity through supporting ownership of productive enterprises by stakeholders such as workers, communities and consumers. By adopting a non-extractive financing model, The Working World aims to increase the amount of wealth rooted in communities and distributed throughout the population.


Brendan Martin is an Ashoka Globalizer (2011) and Fellow (2009). Dubai International Award for Best Practices under the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (2009).

Impact evidence

  • Since 2004, The Working World supported more than 800 projects with over 200 cooperative businesses. 
  • More than $4 million loaned.
  • Over a hundred jobs created through cooperative businesses.
  • 98% debt repayment.
How does it work?

Loan amounts range from US$ 5,000- US$ 500,000, and they are made based on the strength of a business plan rather than personal collateral or credit history. Repayment is only sought once an enterprise is profitable. Loan seekers must be cooperative, democratic and productive business ventures. Projects are funded via a series of successive short-term loans to ensure that growth is sustainable and progressive, and finance is non-extractive (that is, repayments are not sought until the business is profitable). Financial investments are paired with technical assistance that is customised to each business’ needs, with topics ranging from business development to governance and cooperative management. This process provides support and financial training for applicants and ensures good results with regard to the financial viability of the project.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Where has been implemented so far
Nicaragua and the United States.
Last updated: 
June 2017