The African Network
Sean Maloney
Frank Greene
Lawrence Spinelli
Shantanu Basu
Fred Swaniker
Barry Kramer
William Guyster
Carol Sands
Linda Jenkinson
Brian Lehnen
Steve Yencho
Chad Larson
Anatole Kratigger
Tricia Chirumbole
Faye Biggs
Victor Mbarika
Isaac Rutenberg
Kannan Pashupathy
Kunle Olukotun
David Gilson
Ashifi Gogo
Ikechukwu Nnamani
Hortense Dodo-Konan
Martin J. Fisher
Guy Kamgaing-Kouam
Rajiv P. Patel
Hazel Gachoka
Marie-Ange Eyoum


Brian Lehnen

Co-Founded & Executive Director
Villa Enterprise

As a leader and innovator in grant based microenterprise development, Brian Lehnen, has demonstrated the importance of this tool in the fight against poverty.   Brian’s career in economic development has focused on innovation in grassroots poverty allivation.  Developing a model of microenterprise development that is both simple and elegant, the model he developed has shown proven results in providing sustained income for the poor and lasting benefits.  The VEF model is a true grassroots model that is meeting a important unmet need among the rural poor.  The program of small business grants that Lehnen developed provides critical leverage by providing grassroots capital and training. 

While visiting several countries in Latin America observing development projects he was struck by the lack of innovation and the lack of sustainability in development projects.  He soon began searching for proven development strategies that could be adapted to better meet the needs of the poor.  With focused effect on rural East Africa, Village Enterprise Fund, has demonstrated leadership in effectively combating abject poverty in the rural African context.

Brian truly believes in the ability of the poor to fight poverty through their own intellect and hard work.  Speaking to over 600 micro enterprise businesses in East Africa over the last 15 years, Brian has learned first hand what they need to fight poverty.  “The poor are the ones who best know how to improve their lives, our job is to give them the tools that can empower them”

Sustainability is key to the Lehnen’s development philosophy.  He has learned that by keeping the model simple and flexible thousands of the poor can create sustainable small businesses.

Key to the success that Brian has had in working with the poor has been his ability to identify key partners is the field who have the dedication and love of the poor and who are committed to helping them lift themselves out of poverty.

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