New Team Member in DC

by Roger Teran

Greetings everybody! I wanted to take this opportunity to formally (and virtually) introduce myself: my name is Roger E. Teran, and I am a new Associate with Agora Partnerships.

As I introduced myself to a plethora of development professionals, fund managers and impact entrepreneurs throughout the last month, I would get the following two questions every single time: What is my job as an Associate with Agora? And, more sharply, am I Ricardo’s brother? It’s time to address these questions once and for all.

What is my job as an Associate with Agora?
Simply put, as an Associate I will be in charge of Agora’s day-to-day affairs, from making sure our finances are in order to maximizing our use of the lovely Salesforce.com platform. And as we all try to make an impact in the world, I will make sure we continue to run as efficiently and smoothly as possible, just like those lean and mean, small and growing businesses. After all, if we can’t run like a business, who are we to provide advice and capital to one, eh?

Am I Ricardo’s brother?
The answer is no. That would be Eduardo Teran, who is way cooler than I am. But I can see how that’s puzzling given that we have the same last name and, more confusingly, the “E” in my middle initial stands for Eduardo. So, to recap, I am not Ricardo’s brother.

I am, however, his second cousin. You see, I have a theory that every other person in Nicaragua is genealogically related to a Teran. That explains why I meet at least a hundred new cousins every time I visit Nicaragua. And that might also explain why everybody in Nicaragua is so nice—the nation is just one big family! Only a theory folks.

All kidding aside, for a very long time Ricardo has been one of the few people I’ve genuinely looked up to as a role model. In many ways, I want to develop the same kind of social enterprise and ultimately deliver the same kind of impact in my home country of El Salvador. And it’s for this reason that I so ardently believe in the Agora model: Your entire outlook in life can change when you have authentic leaders paving the difficult road ahead. That’s the power of entrepreneurship

Though I have much to learn, I am extremely excited and blessed to be surrounded by a cadre of exceptional leaders at Agora. Most importantly, I am truly happy. It’s the sort of happiness that I could only find by doing what I am suppose to do.

With that, I leave you all with my favorite Confucian quote. It goes like this:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Cheers.

Agora Partners with Arthur B. Schultz Foundation

by Alejandro Solis

Agora’s newest partner, Arthur B. Schultz Foundation, is dedicated to improving the quality of life for people through the support of microenterprises, women’s empowerment, and mobility solutions for the disabled. Its flagship grant program is the Social Microenterprise Initiative (SMI), a truly innovative, ‘pay-it-forward’ small business loan program. Through it’s partnership with the Schultz Foundation, Agora will pilot their SMI program in Central America.

To date, SMI has been successfully implemented in five challenging locations around the world: Russia, Vietnam, Palestine, Tibet, and Kenya.

SMI is a unique program that makes interest-free small business loans strictly for machinery and equipment. Businesses repay the SMI loans not in cash, but by donating in-kind products, services, and vocational training to the poor in their communities. Agora Partnerships will pilot this program in Nicaragua in the fall of 2010.

I recently attended an SMI Conference in Berkeley, CA. The purpose of the SMI Conference was to evaluate the up-to-date results, as well as to analyze the program´s ability to expand further in the near future, both from a sustainability and impact-growth perspective.

For me and Agora Partnerships, the conference was a great opportunity to learn more about the structure of the SMI program and better understand the effects of implementing such a program in Nicaragua. The aim for Agora and the Schultz Foundation was to identify how both institutions can work as partners to bring the SMI program to Latin America. The Schultz Foundation’s board recently approved a pilot SMI project in Nicaragua to begin in the second half of 2010. Both institutions will begin to work diligently in the fall to make this endeavor a reality.

Updates from Nicaragua

By Matthew Pietras

After returning from an amazing week of sun in Costa Rica, it was back to the grind in Managua. Agora is moving full steam ahead as it approaches some important new endeavors.

On Monday, April 12th, Agora will launch its first every ‘Team Member Fundraising Challenge.’ Each team member has been assigned the task of raising $100 towards Agora’s mission. Now, this may not seem like a lot of money, and some of you may be asking where the challenge lies?! Well, no donation can be over $5 and each team member can only donate ONCE to the challenge. Therefore, it will require 19 separate donations to win the challenge. Please help our team members out by visiting their Firstgiving pages. Stay tuned for next week’s blog to see who is the closest to winning a very special Nica prize!

Outside of Managua, Agora continues to expand its footprint with the help of our amazing Young Professionals’ Board. April 14th marks the first ever ‘Noche de Colaboracion’ in New York City at Cuba Restaurant. If you are in the city and would like to meet members of the Agora community, please come by! For more details, see our website.

This week’s post is short and sweet as I am headed to a site visit in Masaya! Next week, look forward to information about our upcoming partnership with Vital Voices on their ‘Living in Democracy’ project.

Disfruta de su fin de semana!

Always,
Your Fellow

Reflections from Granada

By Ben Powell

The Granada conference in Nicaragua is over but its legacy is just beginning. Francisco Noguera gave a lot of the details in his great post on the conference. For those who attended, I hope we set a standard for what an Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) conference should be.  For those who couldn’t attend, I think the conference brought into relief some key opportunities and stress points currently facing the emerging industry of impact entrepreneurship/investing.

Here are just a few takeaways from the conference.

The front line members of the movement are young. The conference was about the next generation of leaders, and they were there in full force – extremely bright, educated, and committed to the enormous development challenges ahead. There was a sense of a generational shift. Even the older folks were young souls. We are lucky to be able to attract such a high caliber of person to the movement.

It takes two to tango. There has been a lot of momentum lately on the investor side – lots of intellectual and financial capital has been amassed to summon increasingly large amounts of impact capital to entrepreneurs. This is fantastic. We need a similar commitment on the entrepreneur side to ensure there is the absorptive capacity to put that capital to work. The presence of a few select entrepreneurs at the conference was a great reality check. After all, the conference and the entire industry is ultimately about helping entrepreneurs reach their potential to create change.  What did we learn? Quite a lot, but I’ll just make two points:  1) entrepreneurs need to be at the table – they need to be invested in this movement as much as investors are – and they need to make it their own, like they are doing in the U.S. with B Corporations.  2) Even in a small country like Nicaragua that is overrun with development organizations – the entrepreneurial market is still  not clear – it’s fragmented, if not broken entirely. Entrepreneurs still do not know about key networks and opportunities for partnerships, much less what impact investors really want.  This continuing lack of information among entrepreneurs is a problem that does have a solution, but it not going to come entirely from the investor side. Entrepreneur-centered organizations like Agora need to do a better job training entrepreneurs before they get in the ring with investors.

It’s all about local staff. Period. For many delegates, this was the first ever conference of its type they have ever attended.  For nearly all of us, it was one of the first conferences that squarely drew a circle around an amorphous industry and defined the delegates as belonging to a movement. Probably the number one goal of the conference was to unleash the potential of local staff to do their jobs better – and through training, networking, building trust, learning a common vocabulary, speaking with thought leaders from outside the region – I think the conference helped do that. Working in this sector is an incredible privilege and responsibility – the local staff – those with the most knowledge and the most at stake understand that more than ever. They are the ones who will take ANDE and the impact investment movement in directions we can’t even imagine today.

This is a movement based on common values for the kind of world we want to live in. Join up. There is nothing like signing your name to something you believe in. In the middle of Lake Nicaragua delegates signed the Granada Declaration. Check it out, and if you agree with its precepts and want to support sustainable, impact entrepreneurs across the globe, sign it.

Greetings from Matthew, an Agora Fellow

By Matthew Pietras

Welcome to the new Agora Fellows’ Blog!

I’m Matthew, a new Agora Fellow.  My first month in Nicaragua is coming to a close, and I cannot believe all that I have experienced. Between adjusting to Nica life and engraining myself in the work of Agora…well, let’s just say that I have definitely packed a lot into those 720 hours! But, the most important event to date was the ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs) Conference we had last week in Granada. Continue reading Greetings from Matthew, an Agora Fellow

ANDE Latin America Conference 2010

By Lissette Cuadra

This past week I spent most of my days at the ANDE Latin-American Conference in Granada, one of the most beautiful cities of my lovely Nicaragua. Agora had the honor of hosting it along with Root Capital and TechnoServe. Let me reiterate what and honor it was.

As part of the Agora Staff in Nicaragua, it was a great experience getting to know some of the organizations we are related to through the ANDE network and to strengthen the bonds for collaboration.

The whole week was very productive in terms of learning about what other partner organizations are doing, sharing experiences to develop entrepreneurship and SGBs in the region, and overcoming obstacles in the creation and improvement of best tools and networks for the growth of these businesses.

I felt like I needed to talk to so many people about so many things! I didn’t know where to start.

I will definitely begin by mentioning my first contact with Agora’s new additions.

New Associate in DC, Roger Teran, he seems to be a great addition to the team, and I’m glad to have a new link to the DC office. Roger seems very talented and eager to work with Agora’s Nicaragua office and I’m glad that he got to come to our country for this event.

Also, it was nice to meet Sarah Hiller, our upcoming 2010 Fellow. She will be joining us in Nicaragua early April. She will be an integral part of the exapnsion of our Women’s Initiative. I will need so much help with that, and I know that her experience in Guatemala, and her general background will be of great assistance to make this program successful. I will tell you more about it in my post next week. Continue reading ANDE Latin America Conference 2010

Why Granada Matters

ANDE’s first ever conference in Latin America holds huge promise to put entrepreneurship on the development agenda in some of the hemisphere’s poorest communities.

By Ben Powell

On March 26th, over 100 representatives from over 50 organizations across Latin America are convening in the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua for the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs’ (ANDE) inaugural regional conference.

The setting is auspicious. After Haiti, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There are few places where good entrepreneurs are more needed than in Nicaragua. With investors and development organizations looking for new models to support sustainable capitalism throughout all of Latin America, the meeting is timely.

The conference aims to build the entrepreneurship movement in Latin America by bringing together development organizations, fund managers and funders. While microfinance and large-scale businesses in these countries have markets that function reasonably well and are supported by professional industries, the same cannot be said for the small business sector.  The ecosystem that supports small and growing businesses is on life support in poor communities throughout the hemisphere.

These communities need a serious injection of energy, coordination, investment, trust, and partnerships to lay the foundation for entrepreneurship to flourish. They need a professional class of local men and women who can work together to create a self-sustaining environment that encourages innovation, risk taking, and entrepreneurial vision. Continue reading Why Granada Matters

News Round-Up

Extra, extra… Who’s talking about Agora?

– Here’s a great Financial Times Article discussing impact investment.  It features Agora Entrepreneur Jasmin Gonzalez.

– Columbia Business School’s interview with Ben Powell, current Alumni of the Month.

Haverford Magazine highlights the work of Agora Partnerships to help support impact entrepreneurs in Central America.

Agora-DC has a new home!

The DC office has moved!

After three years being housed with our good friends and colleagues at TechnoServe, we have moved our Washington, DC offices.  We packed up our office into boxes (wow, there were a lot of them!) and moved early last month just before the big snowstorms.  We’re pretty much unpacked and are really starting to feel at home.  It’s a wonderful space and we’re looking forward to bringing a lot of Agora programming from it!

Here are the details:
Our new address is:
1707 N St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

The new main office number is:
202.580.8776

Feel free to come visit!

Accelerating Businesses Creating Positive Impact