Change & Innovation, Prosperity

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 2

Eloy Oliveira (Brazil ’19)

Strengthening the public sector in Brazil

Brazil has more than 12 million civil servants. According to a 2017 research study, Brazil is the world’s second least satisfied country regarding the quality of public service. In spite of this, the Brazilian Government has no assessments or data regarding its civil service engagement, and does not consider this problem to be part of the public agenda.

Eisenhower Fellow Eloy Oliveira (Brazil ’19), CEO of Instituto República, an organization focused on promoting professional development within Brazil’s public-service sector, will develop a workplace assessment survey to diagnose issues within the public sector and provide valuable insights about current engagement of civil servants. The ultimate aim is to improve the quality of the country’s civil service and the service delivered to citizens.

Prior to starting his fellowship, Eloy initiated a collaboration with the Office of Personal Management at the Brazilian Federal Government to discuss the possible implementation of this new workplace assessment tool. Eloy shared early findings with them during his fellowship and has already started refining the plan to get the first survey up and running. He also involved scholars and experts in the discussion. The idea is to start with the Brazilian Federal Government, which has 1.2 million civil servants and could directly impact the lives of the over 200 million inhabitants of Brazil. He plans to launch the first survey later this year and expects to process its results within the next 12 months.


Changing the innovation landscape in Latin America

Bruno Rondani (Brazil ’13), CEO of 100 Open Startups, is masterfully changing the innovation landscape in Latin America through the platform he created, 100 Open Startups. As an accomplished engineer and entrepreneur, Bruno had started and already sold his company by the time he became an Eisenhower Fellow. What he took away from his experience was the knowledge and vision that helped him to try something completely new: scale up his startup know-how and expand it so that many, many others could benefit as well.

Bruno Rondani (featured at the far right) is a 2013 Fellow from Brazil.

The new platform he created brings together entrepreneurs, universities, large multi-national corporations and investors so that startups can be evaluated and ranked by leading corporate executives and matched with appropriate partners. Often, corporations might be looking for innovative solutions that entrepreneurs have already created, and just need to be connected. Some of the problems that need solving are broad and have included public services, healthcare and well being, sports, retail, energy and future of education to name a few.

Based in São Paulo, Bruno expanded his platform to nine other cities in Brazil and has expanded to Bogota, Lima, Santiago and Mexico City. His goal is always to first connect those who are in the same city and then he helps connect cities with other cities for cross-pollination. The ripple effect of innovation can be felt all the way to Miami, the gateway to Latin America where he operates a U.S. hub.

With success of this model in his region of the world, Bruno is also piloting the model in Bangalore, India, where he says the city is similar to São Paulo, including the number of universities, investors and entrepreneurs. The aim is to eventually take 100 Open Startups across the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Listen to Bruno tell his story below.


Mama River: Strengthening and expanding the work of community health advocates in rural areas across Peru

Magaly Blas (Peru ’18), Director of the Mama River Program at Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University, trains community health advocates to work in remote areas along the Amazon River with an emphasis on newborn and maternal care. The Mama River Program is a health outreach program that uses smartphone technology to deliver educational content and documents and that monitors vital records and health statistics of pregnant women and newborns residing in remote rural areas of the Amazon region of Peru. In the program’s first year, Mama River workers brought community education videos and safe birth delivery kits to 799 women of childbearing age in 13 riverine communities. In 2016, she received the Elsevier Foundation Award for “early career women scientists in the developing world.” While on Fellowship, Magaly expanded on the creation of a Mama River Program spin-off called Ikara: Innovation and knowledge to improve health.” Her goal is to scale-up Mama River so it can be deployed more widely, including in the border area between Peru and Colombia, where a common interest in improving health could spark a better relationship between the countries.

The program also enhances access to health care and other social services for these under-served communities. Within the three years after completion of Magaly’s fellowship, Mama River will have diversified sources of revenue by testing these four models of sustainability identified during fellowship meetings:

  • Adoption of the program by the government (Ministry of Health and regional governments)
  • Adoption of the program by companies working in rural areas (e.g. extraction companies working in the Amazon or Andes)
  • Creation of a social enterprise that will allow generation of program revenue
  • Application to private funders that may include: grants, charity donations, crowdsource funding, sponsorship models, corporate social responsibility, and endowment.
Change & Innovation, Justice

Our impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, Part 1

In fall 2019, EF will host the first regional program dedicated to Latin America and the Caribbean in more than ten years. Before these 23 new Fellows arrive, get to know just a few of the 257 Eisenhower Fellows living in Latin America and the Caribbean and learn what they are doing in their communities to make a difference.

Laura Alonso (Argentina ’08)

Government watchdog for anti-corruption in Argentina

A former head of the Argentinian chapter of the global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International, Laura Alonso (Argentina ’08) was appointed to the lead Argentina’s anti-corruption office in 2015 by President Mauricio Macri. He also encouraged her to run for a seat in the country’s House of Representatives, which she won in 2009. While serving as a watchdog at home, Laura represents Argentina on global anti-corruption initiatives at meetings of the G20 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development.

Listen to Laura tell her story below.

Laura Alonso (Argentina ’08) featured above center.

Advancing economic opportunities for Jamaican youth through music education, emphasizing reggae as a national asset

Imani Duncan-Price (Jamaica ’18) featured with a local teacher who attended the train-the-trainer workshop.

Employing new technology and artificial intelligence, Imani Duncan-Price (Jamaica ’18) leveraged a Jamaican cultural treasure and partnered with MusicQuest, a software app that allows students to create original songs using the computerized sounds of more than 40 instruments. Leading the company’s pilot program in Jamaica, she brought it to 1,100 students in five schools, trained 22 teachers in the technology and anticipates expanding to one-fifth of the nation’s schools over the next three years.

Featured (L-R, front row): G. Nagesh Rao (USA ’17), Imani Duncan-Price (Jamaica ’18), Yasmine Abdel-Razek (Egypt ’18), Jerry Kuo (Chinese Taipei ’18). (L-R, back row): Jack Bienko (USA ’16) and Temitayo Etomi (Nigeria ’18).

University leader got his start as scientist and museum director

Marcelo Knobel (Brazil ’07) is the rector of Universidade de Campinas.

Marcelo Knobel (Brazil ’07) is the rector at the Universidade de Campinas in Brazil. Just 12 years ago, he came to the United States on his Eisenhower Fellowship to think about ways to grow the museum he directed at the time, which focused on science and science education, into something bigger and more impactful. He now leads one of the consistently top-ranked universities in Brazil and Latin America. Unicamp is responsible for 15% of Brazil’s research and is a publicly-funded university offering tuition free undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Listen below for his story.

Change & Innovation, Prosperity

Financier invests for environmental and social good

San Francisco, California

Ted Levinson (USA ’14) visits an organic egg farm in Thailand, a prospective borrower.

Ted Levinson (USA ’14) specializes in pairing values-driven financiers with socially responsible businesses in emerging markets.

On Fellowship in India and Indonesia he learned that access to capital was the biggest constraint on growth for sustainable-agriculture, alternative-energy and other renewable-resource companies that generally are too large for microfinance loans but too small for development-bank financing.

From his professional background at the intersection of philanthropy and investing, Ted also knew that family foundations and donor advised funds in the U.S. sit on almost $1 trillion dollars – an ideal pool of money to tap to support international social enterprises.

To bridge the gap he created Beneficial Returns, an impact investing fund that loans money for equipment purchases to enterprises advancing the quality of life by combating poverty in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Beneficial pools capital from U.S.-based family foundations and donor-advised funds to make loans in the amount of $50,000 to $500,000.

A team from Guayaki harvest its prime ingredient, yerba mate.

Since its founding in 2017, Beneficial has loaned $1.4 million to five companies, including Guayaki, a popular U.S.-based beverage company that sources its main ingredient – yerba mate – from the Atlantic Rainforest in South America. Yerba mate is one of the world’s six most commonly used stimulants (coffee, tea, kola, cocoa, and guarana, being the others), and claims many health benefits.

Through its market-driven restoration model, Guayaki provides a powerful economic incentive for its suppliers to preserve and restore the rainforest. The model has led to the creation of hundreds of jobs in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. A loan from  Beneficial Returns helped outfit a new factory in Brazil.

Being exposed to new experiences on fellowship, said Ted, gave him the courage and international connections to quit a rewarding job at RSF Social Finance and launch Beneficial, where he works internationally and leads a small team.

By providing prospective borrowers, investors and collaborators, the Eisenhower Fellowship’s global network has been instrumental in advancing his work.

Sistema Bio produces biogas and fertilizer out of manure and farm waste.

Featured: Ted Levinson (left) and Edward Mungai (right) discuss their investments in a social enterprise in Kenya where Mungai is based.

Ted worked with Fellow Edward Mungai (Kenya ’16) to invest in a Mexican company that recently expanded into the Kenyan market with low-cost biodigesters that convert manure and farm waste into biogas and fertilizer. In Chile he partnered with Fellow Roberto Guerrero (Chile ’07) to extend Beneficial’s first loan in that country.

To learn more about Beneficial Returns, click here.

Kuda Chitsike
Change & Innovation, Justice

An activist who is breaking the glass ceiling in politics

Kuda Headshot

Kudakwashe Chitsike (Zimbabwe’15) is a women’s rights activist who is committed to changing the culture in Zimbabwe so that more women can run for political office.

Harare, Zimbabwe

In the midst of a global movement of women taking strides towards political leadership, Chitsike uncovered the barriers that prevent women from succeeding in her country. After her fellowship ended in the fall of 2015, Chitsike secured funding to research why women were reluctant to take on political leadership roles. Even though Zimbabwean women make up 52% of the population, government, political parties and decision-making bodies fail to engage and encourage women to participate in politics. Despite the Zimbabwean constitution’s clauses on gender equality and quotas in place, the number of women in the National Assembly has not dramatically increased.

Why is it so hard for women to enter into politics in Zimbabwe?

According to Chitsike, factors that stopped women from running for office include attitudes towards women in politics, lack of support from spouses and family, domestic responsibilities, the absence of the rule of law, and lack of resources for campaigning.  Chitsike discovered, however, that fear and violence, both real and perceived was the most significant barrier.

The real and perceived threat of violence emerged this year when four women ran for the office of the President of Zimbabwe, out of 23 candidates in total. Working with organizations like Women in Politics Support Unit, Women in Politics Incubator Zimbabwe and GenderLinks through the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Chitsike helped deliver programs to raise the number of female leaders in parliament and councils. These female candidates and organizations came up against a fierce battle with hate speech, slander, online bullying, body shaming, sexual harassment and threats of physical violence. According to Chitsike, government and other political parties did not do enough to condemn these acts of violence against women. The election results showed a disappointing 15% support for women candidates despite women constituting 52% of voters.

With the #metoo movement as a backdrop, new strategies were used to fight the backlash facing women running for political office. Some candidates used social media hashtags to reclaim words such as “prostitute” that were once used to wound and target them. Chitsike explains that “if you haven’t been called prostitute in your quest to promote and protect women’s rights, then you haven’t been doing a good job. If you embrace the term, it cannot be used to hurt you.”

In the future, Chitsike plans to continue to work behind the scenes to encourage and support women to run for office. Chitsike’s counsel to those who stand with her for women’s rights is this: “The fight against a patriarchal and misogynistic society is not for the fainthearted. Women’s rights activists and women in leadership in any sphere must be prepared for the long haul as changes are not going to happen overnight. Although ground was lost in the July election, there are lessons to be learned that can bring about the desired result, increased women’s political participation. These lessons should include supporting the few women that did make it into parliament in whatever way possible. Challenges will continue along the way but anything worth fighting for doesn’t come easy.”

Listen here for Chitsike’s words of wisdom.

Change & Innovation, Justice

Smart city innovator builds equity

United States

Austin, Texas is a city that boasts of booming technology and innovation start-ups, with a growing skyline to match. The transition in the city has been rapid and quite remarkable.  However, with the growth has come a painful 37% cost of living increase between 2010 and 2015. As a result, access and equity have become two of the city’s greatest challenges.

At the center of these issues is Chelsea Collier (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16). Collier connects and engages people from public, private and non-profit sectors to build community and share information about the potential for innovation and technology to make a positive impact – namely through the development of smart cities.

Just what is a smart city? A smart city is a municipality that uses information and connected technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and resident welfare. According to Collier, smart cities would experience some of these positive outcomes if they properly invested in “smart” infrastructure: street lights that could dim based on pedestrian traffic or illuminate during an emergency; residents who could access real-time weather forecasts block-by-block that would help them prepare for urban flooding; and emergency responders who could be alerted to a potential hostile situation well before any citizen would have to place a 911 call. This requires enhanced mobile broadband and WiFi capabilities, a platform to connect the Internet of Things (IoT) and a cohesive smart city strategy.

To encourage this smart city conversation, Collier works across three distinct platforms – Digi.City, Smart Cities Connect, and the Impact Hub global network. She created Digi.City as a direct outcome of her Eisenhower Fellowship. The fellowship application itself encouraged her to focus on one particular area where she hoped to make a difference, and she realized that smart cities were at the intersection of everything that she was already committed to—public policy, technology, entrepreneurship, social impact, workforce and economic development.

Being one of the early U.S.-based communication platforms focused on smart cities, Digi.City serves as a space for elected leaders, city officials, community advocates and industry innovators to learn best practices from one another and share resources. Not only is Digi.City a digital platform, but it has hosted dozens of small events from coast to coast providing thought leadership on how different cities can address common challenges such as equity, access to resources, transportation and sustainability by leveraging technology to find and implement solutions.

Another concrete outcome of her Eisenhower Fellowship was working with the Impact Hub Austin team to support the creation of a Workforce Development Accelerator, designed to address the widening gap in the local economy between the “haves” and the “not haves, yet”, a phrase that Collier uses to describe the hope for growth and opportunity in her region. The Accelerator brings together nine diverse teams to focus on how innovation can address access to middle-skill jobs, particularly for disadvantaged populations. This program was inspired by her collaboration with Nate Robinson (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16) through a concept they designed for the EF iLabs, which took place during the EF Future of Work Global Conference in Spain.

Collier’s connection to the EF global family is one that deeply inspires her: “We are in an era of great upheaval and rapid change. In the face of transition and 24-7 news cycles, it is easy to get lost and believe that our world is growing darker. EF’s mission to gather, encourage and lift leaders around the world who are making positive and important progress to create peace, prosperity and equality is more needed than ever. We are inspired by each other and can also share the more quiet work that is happening in our own areas. Seeing and celebrating these efforts is now all of our collective responsibility.”

 

Photo above: (Back row) Stacey Chang (USA ’15), Nate Robinson (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16), Jack Bienko (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16), Anu Passi-Rauste (Finland ’14), Chris Laing (USA/Zhi-Xing ’15). (Front row) Romana Lee-Akiyama (EF staff), Chelsea Collier (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16).