On August 23th, in Santa Clara, California, I attended business plan presentations of 19 competitively selected social entrepreneurs, who delivered their pitches to a panel of experienced professionals plus a general audience. These presentations marked the culmination of the 10th annual Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™) program organized by Santa Clara University. The Development Marketplace has been one of its partners since its beginning. The program includes intensive work by each entrepreneur with two to three designated mentors, and a series of on-campus classes. Its main objective is to strengthen material that each entrepreneur already has available, refine their business models and develop professional organizational documentation that can be presented to attract investors.
From April 23-25, 2012, a DM team comprised of Ricardo Hernandez (Sr. Environmental Specialist), Angelica Calderon (Information Specialist), Douglas Jimenez (Information Assistant), and Myra Valenzuela (Consultant) visited DM2008 Project “Reducing Impacts of Ranching on Biodiversity.”
With the Rio+20 meetings less than 5 weeks away, climate change has once again taken center stage on the global agenda. Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda IAP (GESG), based in the state of Querétaro, Mexico, is combating climate change through its efforts to establish a conservation-based local economy in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve (Reserve). At almost 384,000 hectares, the Reserve covers 32% of the state’s territory, and it is jointly managed as a public-private partnership by the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) and GESG.
As a member of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Mexico and serves as a critical refuge for both migratory and threatened species. However, the practice of extensive cattle grazing by landowners throughout the Reserve poses a threat to the delicate ecosystem. GESG’s GEF-funded project with the Development Marketplace, “Reducing Impacts of Ranching on Biodiversity” addressed just that: financing payments for environmental services to local ranchers in exchange for excluding their cattle from the land and performing conservation activities (e.g. tree planting, soil regeneration, no lumber extraction, no hunting). The DM project also supported 5 pilot farms to showcase best practices for animal husbandry and land management. In addition, GESG pursued certification and verification of sequestered carbon captured in reforestation efforts through the Rainforest Alliance, developing a “gourmet” product of integrated environmental services.
How can one go to scale? This is the continuous challenge that confronts all successful social entrepreneurs. For Grupo EOZ in Mexico, there were a few key elements behind their answer: a combination of funding, partnerships and publicity, much of it due to its participation in a national TV competition called Iniciativa México.
From August to November 2010, 50 finalists from a pool of 47,000 initial applicants were featured weekly on the national TV competition.
Development Marketplace winner Pachamama Coffee Cooperative (PCC) was featured in the New York Times not too long ago. Its newest initiative CoffeeCSA.org found its roots in humble beginnings. Springing from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement which began in the 1960’s in Switzerland, consumers receive their produce directly from the farmer through a household subscription paid for in advance. Then on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, the consumer cum subscriber receives a portion of the overall harvest.
CoffeeCSA.org is a platform that allows consumers to pay in advance for a coffee subscription ranging from one month to one year. There consumers have a direct link to farmers who grew their coffee in Ethiopia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru or Guatemala. And the advance subscription provides a more stable income to farmers. It’s a great adaptation of an old model for coffee farmers who often live on only $2 per day.