¿Qué barreras pueden dificultar el éxito de tu proyecto y cómo piensa resolverlas?
The biggest barriers to our success will be:
1) proving our model can work in an advanced economy,
2) securing the finances necessary to grow to sustainability
While we have proven very successful in Argentina and Nicaragua, working in the US presents difficult and exciting challenges. The access to resources, competitive climate, and sophistication of the small business sector is extremely different from where we have worked to this point. Moreover, the capital needed to create a successful business is far greater than in Latin America. However, we believe that our unique brand of bottom up wealth creation will be extremely productive in the US, where quality jobs at the low end of the market have been hard to create in recent decades. We are convinced that with hard work and the same empirical approach we have taken in years past, our tools will function here as well.
The second barrier is to grow our Fund enough to reach more people, financing businesses in the US, and generating enough investment returns for all of our Funds to become self-sustaining. There are many ways we are seeking to overcome this problem, partly by improving the communication of our project to potential funders, but also by talking to a number of people and institutions in the social finance world who are willing to invest in our Fund at attractive rates. This will be key to creating a fund that is large enough to perform our work at a scale where we can earn sufficient investment returns to pay for our work and achieve internal sustainability.
Cuéntanos sobre tus alianzas.
A few of our most important partners, without whose help we would not have gotten to where we are, include: Ashoka; the Argentine’s Ministry of Social Development and its most recent microcredit initiative; a network we formed to apply for said initiative, including a traditional microcredit organization and a capacity-building group; the Mayor's office in Leon, Nicaragua, the Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Industrial; the Movimientos Nacionales de Fabricas y Empresas Recuperadas; the University of Buenos Aires and its “Open Faculty”; Help Argentina; FECOOTRA and Red Grafica, two federations of worker cooperatives investing in our Fund; the New School and NYU, with whom we have collaborated on study abroad exchange programs.
In our time in New York, we have already been working together with:
the Center for Family Life, investing in cooperatives they have incubated and as colleagues on future cooperative training workshops; The Door, to open an enterprise run and owned by formerly trafficked Chinese immigrant youth; Art for Change, to re-open a formerly successful “Peña” run by Spanish Harlem-based immigrants; The Green Worker Cooperatives, in talks with members of the Green Worker Roundtable regarding coop incubation; The New York Asian Women’s Center; the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives; Toniic Fund for impact investment; the Graduate Center for Worker Education at Brooklyn College; the District Three Community Board.
Finally, we enjoy strong partnerships with a network of consultants, interns, and volunteers, who provide translation, marketing and messaging, legal aid, and grant writing support.
Explica tu selección.
Over the years, our projects have been supported in a variety of fashions by all of the above selections. This speaks to our belief in a collaborative development model. We have received donations, grants and -- more recently -- investments from friends, family, individuals, foundations, NGOs, businesses (some from the same communities we support!), the Argentine government, and customers, through a fair trade platform we run on behalf of some of our clients. We have also received training and technical and informational support from foundations (including Ashoka), NGOs, the Argentine government, and several major universities. We have benefitted from consulting services and volunteer help from friends, family, individuals, and also through intern exchange programs we have carried out with the University of Buenos Aires, NYU and The New School.
However, the most significant source of potential income is from our clients. Thus far, in our pilot stage in New York, we have been dependent on donations to get off the ground. But as our Fund grows and our investment returns from customers grow with it, we aim for investment returns from clients to become the most significant source of income on a road to self-sustainability.
¿Cómo se va a fortalecer tu proyecto durante los próximos tres años?
Our three principal goals for the next years are all intended to strengthen our project.
The horizontal growth we seek is very important to prove the efficacy of our methods in different environments. By figuring out how to work not only in the developing world but also in NYC’s advanced economy, we can prove the flexibility of our model and facilitate its expansion.
Vertical growth to increase our Fund is equally important in terms of potential impact. With a larger Fund, we can attempt to both extend our reach to a greater number of people and also invest in larger businesses and reach into industries at the heart of an economy.
But the most important way that we plan to strengthen our project over the next three years is to attain self-sustainability. Though we are just beginning in NY, with a chance to prove our methods to the impact investment community, we have a very strong chance to grow our fund enough to where the returns on our investments to clients will become a very significant source of income and eventually pay for all our costs. Self-sustainability is the key to ensuring we remain efficient and primarily benefit our target groups, and growing our fund to this level is our most central goal in ensuring the longevity of our impact.