Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
The social impact of El Coco Loco has been great in a short period of time. Through Waves of Hope donations, 245 backpack kits were donated to local school children. This initiative helped increase attendance in local schools by up to 35% in one school. By donating all of the necessary school supplies (including required school uniforms) El Coco Loco and Waves of Hope helped families not have to choose between school supplies and food for their children. Another successful initiative had a Waves of Hope volunteer training 5 young women from the community in an esthetics course. The women have now opened a spa cooperative and offer manicures and pedicures to guests at El Coco Loco. The proceeds earned by the salon help to sustain the business and pay the salary of the young women. Through conversations with local health care providers, and donors in the US and Canada, Waves of Hope was able to donate $1000 USD in essential medicines to the local hospital. The hospital serves numerous communities and provides free healthcare, unfortunately, many times the pharmacy does not have the required medicine for patients and they are required to purchase their remedy at private pharmacies. Local healthcare providers informed us that they believe many times, patients do not buy the medication due to economic constraints. Volunteers for Waves of Hope have committed hundreds of hours of support to the local school helping a teacher overwhelmed with 35 students in 3 different grades with her classes. They have also created a successful English teaching program for children as well as adults. Volunteers have also created an after school program that more than 20 children routinely participate in. The after school program offers a mix of physical education, arts and crafts, reading programs, beach clean ups and other activities. The group meets sometimes as coed activities, and other times as boys club and girls club separate. These programs (along with many others not mentioned) combined with the day to day interaction of guests of El Coco Loco represent the social impact that El Coco Loco and Waves of Hope have had on the community.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
El Coco Loco and Waves of Hope have the combined goal of sharing the benefits of tourism with the local community. Through a community assessment, a wide range of problems was identified in the community. Lack of jobs, educational challenges, disposal of human waste, lack of potable water are a small sampling of problems identified by community members. El Coco Loco employs several community members at the hotel. Further jobs are needed, and El Coco Loco is committed to training community members to create their own small businesses. Guests are encouraged to rent horses from local people, book fishing trips with local fishermen, and support local vendors. El Coco Loco also believes in the youth of the community. Youth are encouraged to stay in school, engage in productive hobbies and to take pride in their community by keeping it clean and safe. Recently, Waves of Hope has begun a program to replace unsafe pit latrines with a system of composting toilets that is technologically appropriate and realistic for a small community. This new development will help alleviate the contamination found in many local drinking water sources. In addition to composting toilets, bio-sand filters are being developed to provide easy to use, effective water filtration for local families.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?
El Coco Loco has identified several keys to success. The keys identified are location, marketing, accommodations, guest support services, restaurant, customer service. The location was decided upon for a number of reasons, being close to a beach, in a small town setting, but also being located in a community of people willing to change and work together to develop. Through a carefully planned marketing campaign, El Coco Loco hopes to continue to win the reputation of the best hostel in the North Pacific of Nicaragua. This includes being included in travel guides, publications distributed throughout Nicaragua and Central America, a fun easy to navigate website, as well as word of mouth from previous guests. The accommodations at El Coco Loco were carefully planned to capture the local architecture of Nicaragua, using natural, native materials, and offering the comfort and beauty that guests demand. Guest support services provides access to taxis, external tours such as horseback riding, boat tours, fishing tours, and volcano tours. The restaurant at El Coco Loco takes pride in using fresh, local ingredients, serving local dishes as well as dishes from around the world at very reasonable prices. The restaurant is staffed by local people, trained by professionals from the restaurant industry in the US and Canada. Finally, customer service is an important part of every business. Founded by travelers, and created for travelers, El Coco Loco aims to make every guests stay enjoyable. For some, this means getting involved with our after school programs, while others, it involves spending endless hours on the beach. Events that may challenge the success of El Coco Loco are mainly out of the control of the ownership. Downturns in the economy can affect the amount that people travel. As well, Nicaragua has a troubled history, and at times the government has been unstable. Overall, the ownership of El Coco Loco is confident in the business model and the investments that have been made both in the property and in the community.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
Year 1: El Coco Loco opened its doors in January of 2010. Throughout the early months, guests were extremely satisfied with their stay and many became excited about the Waves of Hope initiative. Many guests have donated and allowed projects such as a new roof for a school that had lost their roof in a storm. In March, El Coco Loco hosted an alternative spring break group from Case Western Reserve University and successfully built a kitchen on the local school with community ‘sweat equity’ help. El Coco Loco has been included on the website www.muchbetteradventures.com and a positive review has been posted on www.tripadvisor.com. Current business is better than expected and as word travels, the outlook is optimistic. Waves of Hope has been approved for Tax Deductible status for a nonprofit in Canada. Creating a board of directors for Waves of Hope is also a goal for year 1.
Year 2: In the second year, El Coco Loco expects to be featured in travel guides such as Moon Handbooks, Lonely Planet and Fodor’s. As development continues in the community, projects begin to focus more on locals offering tourism options. El Coco Loco envisions supporting local projects such as restaurants, tours, internet cafes, and even other lodging options. Another important initiative that will be in place for year 2 is the protection of nesting sea turtles. Cooperating with local wildlife officials and local law enforcement, El Coco Loco hopes to protect the eggs of endangered sea turtles.
Year 3: Now fully established as the best option for travelers in the North Pacific of Nicaragua, El Coco Loco can continue to support further development of the community. Offering scholarships and training programs for local youth. El Coco Loco will continue to host alternative spring break trips, long term volunteers and offer guests the opportunity to get to know Nicaraguan culture while helping local people develop in a responsible manner.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?