Social entrepreneurs from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela honored at the World Economic Forum.
BY RICHARD BURNS
RIO DE JANEIRO – A group of social entrepreneurs with varied backgrounds and goals were honored during the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Rio de Janeiro.
“These social entrepreneurs that we are recognizing … are essential for the future of the continent,” said Hilde Schwab, Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
Roberto Kikawa, one of the most highly regarded gastroenterologists in Brazil, founded the largest mobile medical center in the world. Projeto CIES brings specialized, humanized and high-technology preventive medical care to communities in need. “What differentiates Projeto CIES from other projects is the technological sophistication and quality of care its hospital-in-a-vehicle can bring to underserved communities,” Abigail Noble, Head, Latin America and Africa, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, writes in her blog.
Noble joined Kikawa one day as he offered his services at the favela of Complexo do Alemao in Rio de Janeiro, which until recently was in a state of chaotic violence, with several hundred people killed through gang related and drug trafficking warfare. “The scene today is very different, as the military patrols the streets of the favela, making it safe for children to play soccer in the empty lots and for neighbors to gather and talk in the streets,” she writes.
HOUSING, EDUCATION, BANKING
Before starting a Mexican social enterprise to focus on sustainable housing for the poor, Francesco Piazzesi grew up with a family construction business. He also wrote his PhD dissertation on “Sustainable Housing Microfinance Mortgage” Piazzesi’s Echale a Tu Casa devised a solution for the poor to become owners of structurally sound houses in a cost-effective and sustainable way. “The Echale model tackles poverty in a multifaceted and replicable way,” Schwab said. “It generates job growth with its micro-construction industry, creates financial stability with community trust funds and ‘sweat-equity mortgages’, and builds social capital through all of this.”
Felipe Vergara, former McKinsey consultant with an MBA from Wharton, founded Lumni Inc, which invests in high-potential students and future employees. “Education accounts for roughly 70 percent of a country’s wealth, yet approximately 88 percent of the world’s youth cannot pay for university,” said Schwab. ”The Lumni model has the potential to change this.” Vergara, a native of Colombia, realized that if someone would invest in the education of a high-potential future worker, the return on that investment in the form of future earning potential would more than compensate for the cost of the education. Investors in Lumni´s funds have received a double bottom line return -- the Return On Investment exceeds the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 7 points, according to data from the World Economic Forum.
Two other entrepreneurs were also honored this year: Tomas Recart, the executive director of Enseña Chile and Claudia Valladares, executive director of Banca Comunitaria Banesco in Venezuela. Recart has been working to improve educational opportunities for impoverished students. Enseña Chile enlists Chile’s top university graduates to teach for two years in low-income communities. Valladares was honored for the bank’s work in providing access to savings accounts and micro-credit to low-income individuals. The bank offers 24/7 services through online banking transactions as well as through its network of retail agents in small businesses located in the low income communities.
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