Armando Laborde: director of Ashoka Central America and Mexico.

Author:Newbery, Charles


Social entrepreneurship has seen a surge over the past decade with the rise of social networking websites like Facebook that allow people to reach wider audiences and find more funding sources.

Armando Laborde understands this well. The 47-year-old has been running the Central America and Mexico operations of Ashoka since 2006 and is also co-director for Latin America.

Founded in 1980 by American social entrepreneur Bill Drayton, Ashoka identifies and invests in social entrepreneurs in 70 countries. It has grown into a global nonprofit organization with 3,000 social entrepreneurs as fellows; the third-largest concentration of fellows is in Mexico, after India and Brazil.

The mission of the Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit is to support entrepreneurs working to tackle problems in a way that produces social benefits, either through financial support, professional backing, or access to a global network of people and organizations that can help.

Of the fellows, 200 are in Costa Pica, E1 Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua. Programs range from promoting volunteerism and civic engagement, to training school children to use computers, to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Alito Alessi, for example, is using a dance program in Mexico to help people on the fringes of society gain self-confidence and find jobs, or develop their own social projects.

Nicaragua's Flavio Bianchini helps equip communities and grassroots organizations to measure the harmful consequences of mining and other resource extraction efforts--data that can be used to bring lawsuits in cases of environmental degradation.

E1 Salvador's Julio Cesar Canizales, who lost his sight just before taming 24, helps the blind to develop job skills while pressing for legal changes to provide more social and economic opportunities for them.

American-born artist and papermaker Mark Callaghan is helping the Maya population of Yucatan, Mexico, to develop a community-based papermaking project as a micro enterprise.

"The fellows look at things differently," Laborde said. Asked if they can make a dent in the wide array...

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