Core Competencies and Activities

Since its inception, FIELD has worked with more than 100 U.S.-based microenterprise programs on various research and demonstration projects. FIELD's core activities include:

  • Assessing the "state of the field." FIELD is one of the leading sources of knowledge and information about the U.S. microenterprise field.  Annually, we conduct the U.S. Microenterprise Census to generate descriptive information on the status of and trends in the field.  FIELD also has built the largest database on U.S. microenterprise client outcomes.  We use our data and engagement with practitioners to create publications and resources that document the field, and its attributes and challenges.
  • Funding learning and innovation. FIELD makes targeted grants to microenterprise practitioners and intermediaries that are exploring issues of critical importance to the field.  Current grant-making centers on participants in our Scale Academy, designed to provide financing, technical assistance and other intensive services to organizations poised to achieve greater scale in their operations; and our Asset Building through Credit pilot, which is working with five microenterprise programs to deliver a secured credit card as a credit-building tool for entrepreneurs.  All FIELD grants are made through a request for proposal or invitation process.
  • Evaluating new ideas and approaches. FIELD has conducted evaluations of several demonstrations in the areas of microenterprise and entrepreneurial development.  Our current work on the Asset Building through Credit pilot includes an evaluation of program practices and client outcomes.  FIELD also conducted the national evaluation of the W.K. Kellogg Rural Entrepreneurship Development Systems (EDS) project, and played an ongoing role in the learning component of the Ms. Foundation's Collaborative Fund for Women's Economic Development. Past evaluation work includes two projects supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation: a Welfare to Work Demonstration (1998-2003) that examined self-employment as a source of work and income for welfare recipients, and an Access to Markets demonstration (1998-2001) that identified innovative ways to help low-income entrepreneurs link their goods and services to markets.
  • Building infrastructure. FIELD initiatives also have helped build the microenterprise industry's infrastructure. These include, a data portal and benchmarking tool that has contributed to the establishment of industry standards and is now the largest database on program performance and client outcomes; and MicroMentor, an Internet-based service created to match entrepreneurs with mentors across the United States, and enable programs to efficiently offer a helpful service to clients.  MicroMentor transferred to Mercy Corps, the international humanitarian relief and development agency, in 2006. To learn more about this spin-off, click here.
  • Sharing knowledge. FIELD is widely known as the premier source of information about innovation and practice in the microenterprise field, and dissemination of that knowledge is key our efforts to build the microenterprise field. FIELD has created more than 100 guides, webinars, manuals, tools and other resources designed to help practitioners provide services that reflect the latest innovations. We also create products designed for donors and, occasionally, policy makers. Our products include:
    • Practitioner Resources
    • The FIELD forum, a periodic publication designed to share findings from FIELD's research and grant-making.
    • The FIELD Funder Guide series, brief 2-4 page publications that provide donors with insights into the field and effective ways in which it can be supported.

FIELD products can be found in the Publications section of this Web site.