Soria Moria Educational Development Program
– an initiative to empower locals through higher education, on-site management training and share ownership

Cambodia has a recent history of war and political instability, and a genocide that killed over 20% of the population; including most of the educated citizens of the country. Peace finally returned to the country in 1998. Cambodia is a currently experiencing rapid development and economic growth, however, the country is still heavily affected by its recent history. The economic benefits are unevenly distributed and a large part of the population still suffers from poverty, corruption, poor health care and education systems and lack of opportunities.

According to a new NGO handbook by ConCERT, there are more than 3000 NGO’s in Cambodia. With little state funding, most organisations have to look elsewhere for resources and many are competing for the same pot of money. Some NGO’s fail because they haven’t done enough research, or have failed to identify a genuine need that has not yet been addressed, or are more concerned about meeting the needs of the donor rather than addressing the real issues they are trying to deal with. Others have failed because they have forgotten to establish ways to make the project self-sustainable, but are reliant on a constant flow of funding, which in turn has caused many projects to close down and consequently created a worse situation the initial circumstances. Despite millions of tourists visiting Angkor every year, Siem Reap remains one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia, and Orphanage Tourism and NGO scams has become a problem.

Taking a different approach!
Soria Moria Educational Development Program believes that essential factors in the development process is to facilitate economic growth, create secure workplaces, provide education on higher level and to encourage development of socially responsible leaders to bring the country forward. We believe that in the long run, this proactive approach will prevent many other problems to occur. Soria Moria Educational Development Program is operated through Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, which will ensure the project to be financially self-sustainable. Soria Moria is a social mission driven organization that applies market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose, where parts of the surplus are reinvested into the local community.

Through our Employee Ownership Scheme the local employees have become majority owners of the business, accounting for 51% of the shares. The share ownership is determined based on seniority and responsibilities in the hotel.  By being share owners, the employees are able to take part in the decision making process and share any profits made. It also enables the employees to take part in helping the surrounding community.

Soria Moria Educational Development Program Project Outline
Soria Moria Boutique Hotel was established in 2007 by a Norwegian couple with several years of experience in Cambodia, and a strong interest in Sustainable Tourism Development. Since the opening of Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, the local employees have received ongoing training and have step by step been given more responsibility and gained experience in managing the day to day operation of the hotel. Through our higher education program 9 members of staff are studying bachelors and 3 masters. Through weekly department head meetings, monthly all-staff meetings, yearly staff-trips, on-site language lessons, management training, cross-training and sponsorships to university, they have become hard-working, knowledgeable, loyal employees with pride in their jobs, eager to provide the best possible service. As can be seen from guest’s feedback; comment cards, guestbook, online reviews, the professionalism and friendliness of the local staff is what makes Soria Moria “a hotel with a heart” (Lonely Planet Cambodia, 2007 & 2010). This has been the first stage in a process to empower the locals.

The second step in this process has been to hand over 51 percent of the ownership of the hotel business to the local employees. The local staff are currently being trained to take over the responsibility and management of the operation of the hotel and its outreach programs. As a third step, we will look at options to hand over the remaining 49% of the ownership to the local employees, or look at ways to use this platform to grow the business.

This is a revolutionary project; the first project of its kind in Cambodia. The majority of the locals involved come from farmer families living below the poverty line, born with little opportunities to move forward in life. Gender equality is fundamental in the hotels organization and females hold more than half of the managerial and supervisor positions. In addition to be financially beneficial and provide an excellent platform for training and personal development which will help secure their future position in the competitive employment market, we hope to build confidence and self-esteem and nourish a feeling of being able to achieve. To read more about our team members, click here.

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