Arsht Center Launches Social Impact Entrepreneurship Initiative

An emerging class of “social entrepreneurs” in Latin America are driving innovation, growth, and poverty alleviation all at the same time. These innovators are finding creative solutions to social and development challenges and have already improved the lives of millions. The results have been fascinating: community-strengthening, economic development, and re-positioning countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile as prominent technological and entrepreneurial hubs.

On April 29, the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center kicked off its new Social Impact Entrepreneurship Initiative, convening Washington’s leading finance and equity companies, entrepreneurs, and policy leaders who understand the entrepreneurship culture in Latin America. Susana García Robles, the pioneer who expanded the Multilateral Investment Fund’s seed and venture capital investment portfolio in the region, was the guest speaker.

Four major themes came out of the private working group discussion:

  1. There is a new generation in Latin America that believes in giving back, and social entrepreneurship breaks the traditional perception that people doing good for society lose money or have to depend on charity.
  2.  Long-term impact requires these entrepreneurial projects to be financially sustainable, but there is a prejudice against “for-profit” services that must be overcome.
  3. One of the most powerful and most needed solutions to achieve financial sustainability is the development of exchange networks that facilitate training and sharing of experiences for entrepreneurs. These programs should cross not only national borders, but be facilitated globally so that entrepreneurs can apply others’ lessons learned to their own work.
  4. Education structures today remain siloed. Boosting success of future social entrepreneurs will require that entrepreneurial skills be integrated into formal teaching programs.

In launching this initiative, the Arsht Center seeks to do more than merely amplify social impact investment in the region by connecting investors and incubators to on-the-ground entrepreneurs.  Rather, the initiative will begin and drive a new conversation in the policy community on how innovative social investment models can be used as an essential development tool in Latin America. For more information, contact Abby Moore.