"Apreciando lo Nuestro" (appreciating what is ours): a new approach to promote enterprising and sustainable local economies

"Apreciando lo Nuestro" (appreciating what is ours): a new approach to promote enterprising and sustainable local economies

Honduras
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

STRO strongly believes that people are prime actors in any development process and not targets of externally designed poverty reduction efforts (as traditional approaches in development cooperation often assume).Through the methodology "Apreciando lo nuestro" (APLN), STRO has proven that whenever conditions are created, people are able to develop a can-do attitude, while defending priorities of action to develop local communities according to their own ideas and passions.

Departing from our own experience, we aim to diffuse this innovative methodology through influencing other development organizations in streamlining this approach into their own projects and programs, setting up a new trend in sustainable poverty alleviation worldwide.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

"Apreciando lo nuestro" was first implemented in the department of Yoro in Honduras, in particular in seven of the eleven municipalities of the department. The territory of Yoro is predominantly mountainous, with beautiful landscapes and lands with particular vocation to agricultural activities and forestry (the latest illegally over exploited during the last 30 years). The cultural diversity is also an asset in the region, as one of the eight ethnic groups in Honduras - the Tolupanes or Jicaque - is based in Yoro, organized in 28 tribes in six municipalities of the department. Despite its natural and cultural wealth, Yoro is one of the poorest regions of Honduras, with an average monthly income of U.S. $ 80, and in some areas the rates of child malnutrition and illiteracy reach 34% and 32%respectively. Moreover, it is a department with difficult access by road, due to poorly maintenance and to the specific geographic conditions, increasing the isolation of the region which benefits the proliferation of illegal activities, such as drug trafficking. The population of the Yoro is approximately 480,000 people of which some 30% can be considered to belong to the Economically Active Population (EAP). While the majority of the EAP depends on agricultural activities, at least 45% are unemployed and 23% underemployed. Most formal employment opportunities are found in the municipalities of El Progreso, Olanchito and Santa Rita (all outside of the intervention area), where there is large-scale, intensive agricultural production and several factories. Consequently, there is a severe migration process in the area of Yoro, towards the urban centres in Honduras and the USA (its emigrants constitute almost 10% of the total Honduran emigrants living in USA), which definitely contributes to the creation of a collective imaginary where foreign products, culture and lifestyle are more appreciated than the ones based in the local resources and culture. In recent studies about people behaviour and attitude, Honduran people considered themselves pessimists (more focused in the country’s problems than in its opportunities) and with few initiative (quite dependant from the national government actions, not being very entrepreneurial). These perceptions are also materialised in people’s behaviour and attitudes in the region of Yoro. It is quite usual, whenever asking youngsters about how they see their future in Yoro, to hear comments such as there is no future for the youth in Yoro or that the good opportunities are in the big cities or even more in the USA. On the same level, recent experiences with development projects with a strong assistentialist focus resulted in dependency relationships with local communities, influencing negatively people entrepreneurial attitude and behaviour. These facts are quite illustrative of the urgency to reinvent the approach of economic development strategies in the region and also of the significant challenges that it constitutes.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We believe that development agencies need to implement innovative models of sustainable economic development, promoting in local people the ability to mobilize diverse resources available in their own communities (resilience), and therefore changing the “common” perception that money is the main determinant factor for an entrepreneurial action. Against the traditional economic development strategies based in promoting the inflow of financial resources/investment from outside the community, this methodology has a stronger focus in stimulating and maximizing local opportunities to create wealth and improve life standards to people. The idea is that every time money is re-spent or re-invested in a community, it represents new income for local people (which is the same as attracting new money for that area), meaning that a change towards more local spending can positively influence local economy. Technical assistance, training and credit programs are the main intervention strategies in economic development field. Even considering the fact that these strategies may be demand-driven by the target group of the intervention, the fact is that these are mostly passive strategies, where those in “need” receive support by those that “hold” the knowledge and the financial means. APLN incorporates instruments that break-down passive strategies and dependency from project workers, while encouraging people to take ownership and responsibility for their community. Thus, in APLN, development workers are merely facilitators of the community mobilization, according to people interests.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The methodology “Apreciando lo nuestro” (appreciating what is ours) departs from the idea that people’s passion and knowledge about local communities are the best assets to develop a successful local economic development strategy. It is also assumed that each community has considerable resources (natural, physical, financial, skills) that could be explored in a first stage on a local basis (before exploring external markets), towards developing a more sustainable local economy. In times of global financial crisis, this approach gains strong momentum in particular for rural/marginal communities that apart from being not so attractive to foreign investors also face a constant decapitalization as a result of local population consumerism behavior with a clear preference for imported processed goods instead locally produced ones. Therefore, the main goal of “Apreciando lo nuestro” is to achieve local economic development, by regenerating local trading systems and enabling values of solidarity economy, based on three axes of intervention: - Economic literacy campaigns: Delivery of community workshops by already trained staff, spreading out new economic literacy, promoting the maximization of local money flows through a change of attitude towards spending and investing patterns, and offering coaching of new business ideas for voluntary local people attending the workshop. -Coaching for regeneration sessions and follow up: Development of new business ideas by local people, supported by coaching sessions delivered by project officers, who adapt further workshops to specific situations found. -Promotion of networking activities: Main actors influencing the local economy are mapped, and later that information is used to promote networking opportunities to enrich local sources of support for new business ideas.
About You
Organization:
Fundacion STRO
About You
First Name

Diana

Last Name

Fajardo

Twitter
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Fundacion STRO

Organization Country

, UT

Country where this project is creating social impact

, YO

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

The “Apreciando lo nuestro” (APLN) was born as a joint effort from Social Trade Organisation (STRO), World Vision Honduras and New economics foundation (NEF). STRO is a dutch NGO operating in Honduras since 2003, devoted to social innovation, whereas NEF is a British independent think and do tank focused in real economic well being. Finally, World Vision Honduras (WVH) is a Christian organization dedicated to reduce poverty and injustice.
The idea of the project was born in 2007 when the regional advisor of STRO after observing people´s behavior in the region of Yoro, Honduras, realized that for the majority of the community the concept of development was based in “foreign support” such as remittances and aid. Surprisingly, Yoro is a region very rich in resources (people, nature, youth, etc) with a high potential to unchain wonderful processes of development if an assets based approach is used. Therefore several questions were raised in STRO local team: How do we lead people to appreciate local resources? How do we harness people dreams and ideas about their communities? How to transform these ideas into action?
These questions led to the first APLN proposal funded by the dutch association PSO by the end of 2007. By then, STRO met the NEF initiative “plugging the leaks”, which had been able to answer several of these questions in the UK context. After receiving NEF's training, STRO implemented a first APLN pilot experience in 2008, jointly with World Vision (a valuable strategic partner in Yoro),in which STRO local advisers adapted NEF’s method to the Honduran context.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

After 2.5 years of implementation of the project in Yoro (2008-2010), a quantitative summary indicates:
- 170 community workshops were held with 4100 participants (66% women),
- Approximately 9% of the workshop participants asked for a coaching session (374 coaching clients). In total 866 sessions were held, resulting that 1 in each 3 clients were able to successfully implement a business idea (147 implemented ideas).
- In average, a (potential) entrepreneur requires 3 to 5 sessions to implement an idea. The majority of the new businesses set up by people themselves, relied on already existing resources (140 initiatives) and therefore greatly reducing the need to access to credit.
The quantitative results are measured based in World Vision project officers’ reports and field trips from STRO officers. A file was created per each coaching client, allowing the officers to track the progresses with each one.
In addition to this, to measure changes in attitude, a baseline study was realized ex-ante and ex-post the APLN implementation, departing from a qualitative survey conducted with a sample of the population in Yoro. Some of the several changes recorded in the interviewed people:
- Understanding on how local economy works (23% before and 61% after APLN);
- Awareness that they have enough resources to start a business (25% before and 60% after APLN);
- Awareness of their influence in local economy functioning (62% before and 80% after APLN);
- Awareness that they have non-monetary resources equally important as money (42% before and 70% after APLN);
- Perception that their own community is rich (40% before and 60% after APLN).
The results mentioned were surprisingly higher than the ones previously achieved by World Vision and other development agencies had achieved in the same region with more traditional techniques (advisory, credit schemes, donations, etc). Therefore, World Vision adapted several of the APLN techniques to other areas of intervention (health and education) in the region and also started a streamlining process of the method in other regions in Honduras.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

In the next three years we hope that those organizations that have already been trained (or are currently in that process) and received advisory from STRO - such as World Vision Honduras, FAO Honduras, the NGO CDH and the NGO REDES- are able to streamline the methodology in other regions and areas of their organizations (with or without STRO’s support). Moreover, we expect to expand the method towards new organizations (at least 10-20) in the region. Consequently, STRO will develop new training basic packages and offer tailor-made advisory services that will allow to reduce the costs of APLN implementation (initial costs of advisory and supervision from STRO) while increasing its adaptability to local contexts and target groups(through the improvement and creation of new tools).

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The main common challenge is the innovative character of the methodology itself. In APLN, project officers are merely facilitators of local community mobilization and “coachers” of entrepreneurs (in case individuals/groups request it). Coaching techniques - more focused in sensorial tools and in people’s own resources/ideas - are quite unknown in the region especially for development workers that traditionally assume the role of advisers, mentors or experts that provide help/support to local communities. Therefore, this shift of roles usually demands an initial openness towards a behavioral change from the same project officers, breaking-down assistentialist working patterns with local communities.

In order to overcome potential initial barriers from development workers, STRO provides close advisory and includes additional methodological “reinforcement” sessions to the basic training program. Moreover, STRO expects to continue improving its training and advisory material, adapting it to the most wide spectrum of technical and social/cultural barriers that project officers might find whenever implementing APLN in the field.

Another important issue is the financial sustainability of the dissemination of the methodology within the region. Although it is a methodology that can be streamlined in any organization, without the need to hire new personnel, in fact it requires qualified trainers with expertise in APLN, in order to prepare and give advisory to development workers in its first period of implementation (usually between 9 to 12 months).

In order to overcome this problem, STRO expects to be able to generate funds from consultancy services offered to other development agencies, allowing not only to maintain the core team of experts but also to provide support to smaller NGOs, that are willing to change their modus operandi but cannot afford the training and advisory costs. In addition to the latest, we are willing to standardize the basic training materials and programs, in order to reduce costs and facilitate the diffusion of the methodology with a wider group of organizations.

Tell us about your partnerships

- NEF / UK: are our mentors in the methodology "plugging the leaks" whose "tropicalization" and adaptation to the Latin American context has resulted in the creation of "Apreciando lo Nuestro" (APLN). We have maintained the contact with NEF through monthly virtual meetings, where different organizations and individuals who are implementing adapted versions of the "plugging the leaks" methodology around the world (Brazil, Israel, Mozambique, South Africa) gather to share lessons learned, techniques and ideas.

- World Vision/ Honduras (WVH): were our allies to implement the first APLN pilot project in Yoro, during approximately 30 months (2008-2010). Currently we maintain contact for the organization of demonstrative field trips and training in WVH (expansion of the methodology towards other intervention areas of VMH in Honduras).

- NGO REDES/ El Salvador: our local partners in El Salvador since 2007, where we established and initial partnership to set up a Local Exchange System in the region of Suchitoto. REDES project officers in Suchitoto are currently implementing the APLN methodology as part of the strengthening process of the solidarity economy in the region. Several project officers from REDES working in other regions asked to receive training from STRO as it seemed an interesting and useful methodology for participatory development processes.

- FAO / Honduras: is currently implementing the APLN methodology in three regions of Honduras, as a complement to an Early Recovery Project, under the framework of the Special Food Security Programme (PESA in Spanish). The main purpose is to implement APLN for the development of economic initiatives with members of rural banks. Depending on the results, the methodology might be streamlined to other FAO intervention regions and programs nationwide.

- Human Development Center (CDH in Spanish) / Honduras: is an Honduran NGO that is also implementing the APLN methodology within one of its microenterprise development programs in a peri-urban area formed by families who were relocated from the capital city after the Hurricane Mitch. Coordination is underway with the technical advisory of STRO and the financial support of the Spanish NGO CESAL.

Explain your selections

“Apreciando lo nuestro” is financially supported by grants/subsidies directed towards the innovation and testing of new components and by consultancy revenues paid by organizations that hire STRO APLN experts.

NGOs and Agencies from the United Nations System: In Honduras, the national NGO CDH (with funding from the Spanish NGO CESAL) and FAO, hired STRO to provide training and technical advisory to several of their project officers, in order to streamline APLN into their own projects and programmes (CDH in urban areas near the capital town and FAO in rural areas in Yoro and in the Southern of Honduras).

National governments: the Dutch government provided financial support for the PSO Innovation Fund that was set up by PSO - an association that consists of sixty Dutch development organisations – and aims to finance innovative projects and to provide insight into and disseminate experiences with innovation. The fund is managed by PSO who has approved two proposals for the implementation of the methodology Appreciating what's Prayer, the first in 2008 for driver development in collaboration with World Vision (with two extensions financing) and the second in 2010 to develop a wider systemic methodology that uses APLN tools as part of a wider programme to promote sustainable change in consumption behaviour, inspired by the methodology of Transition Towns. This project is called "Más Suchitoto" and is being implemented until the end of 2011, with STRO’s local partner in El Salvador: the NGO Redes.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We pretend to strengthen APLN methodology in three main components:
a)Dissemination of the methodology in the development sector: we are planning to create a certified train the trainers program that would allow a faster expansion of the methodology, in the sector. Our participation in development networks in Latin America and in Europe and in international competitions/awards, are also part of the innovation diffusion strategy. Another important activity for the next 3 years is the systematization and publication of the results of the APLN implementation in each organization/region, in order to share lessons learned and the impact achieved.

b)Financial sustainability of the technical advisory and training: through the creation of a standardized basic training program for development organizations as well as tailored consultancy services to adapt the methodology towards local contexts and target groups, generating enough funds to maintain and if possible grow the team of APLN experts in STRO.

c)Continuous improvement of the methodology: in particular in what regards the ability to “provoke and stimulate” innovative business ideas and the development of business tools (in particular business planning instruments) adapted to individuals with a low literacy level. Moreover, STRO expects to work further in the integration of the APLN with other innovative methods such as local exchange systems and time banking.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Lack of visibility and investment

SECONDARY

Lack of access to information and networks

TERTIARY

Restrictive cultural norms

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

The practical ability of the tools, used in the community workshops, effectively generates positive changes in the behavior of economic agents. The reflective process triggers a shift from external consumerism towards local mobilization of resources (investment) for economic initiatives.
Similarly, the methodology promotes the strengthening of local trade networks, by mapping the main actors in the community, and later facilitating their linkage with new entrepreneurs (workshops / individual meetings).
The use of "coaching" techniques encourages empowerment (especially in women), by creating a safe space where people dreams are heard and encouraged to put them into practice, breaking-down pessimist and low self-esteem attitudes.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

SECONDARY

Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

TERTIARY

Repurposed your model for other sectors/development needs

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We believe that the success and impact of “Apreciando lo nuestro” will exponentially grow as more organizations are familiar with the methodology and are able to adapt it into their own development programs. With this in mind, we are currently offering training and technical advisory to the project officers of several organizations, such as: the local teams of a FAO early recovery project and the NGO CDH, both in Honduras, and the NGO REDES in El Salvador. Each knowledge-sharing and capacity building experience, allows us to disseminate APLN at a regional level and to continue adapting the methodology to different contexts and target groups. Additionally, for a higher diffusion of APLN, we created a basic toolbox regularly updated and available online: http://www.apreciandolonuestro.org/

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

NGOs/Nonprofits.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Being STRO a small international NGO focused in social innovation, we seek for collaborations with development organizations with several years of work and logistic capacity in the field.Thus, by working with locally renowned NGOs, we have been able to reach greater responsiveness and participation of local people, while expanding the possibilities for an adoption of the methodology to other regions and / or thematic areas within the same organizations.
Moreover, the alliances with renowned NGOS enabled us to build networks with other related organizations, resulting in new partnership agreements to other regions in Central America, that not only have contributed to the diffusion of the methodology but also to its continuous improvement/adaptation towards different contexts and groups.