Paraguay: A Lesson in Social Entrepreneurship: Fundacion Paraguaya

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Sep 2011
New York, United States, September, 18 2011 - A pioneer in microfinances and youth financial literacy in Paraguay, Burt developed one of the world’s first financially self-sufficient agricultural schools for the rural poor – creating a radical new model for education.

Recently, I interviewed Martin Burt, founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya, an NGO devoted to the promotion of entrepreneurship among the world’s poor. A pioneer in microfinances and youth financial literacy in Paraguay, Burt developed one of the world’s first financially self-sufficient agricultural schools for the rural poor – creating a radical new model for education.

Rahim Kanani: Describe a little bit about the founding and motivation behind Fundación Paraguaya:

Martin Burt: In 1985, together with a group of visionary businessmen and professionals we founded Fundacion Paraguaya. It was the country’s first microfinance program and first development NGO. We were under a military dictatorship then, so social work was quite difficult. Our objective was to develop social innovations that could help create jobs and increase family income among the country’s poor. We wanted to show that self-help and economic self-reliance programs were better than charitable approaches. Our microfinance programs have evolved and we are now quite serious in going to the next level, which is to help all our clients overcome and eliminate poverty. We also have developed new educational programs that borrow the basic concepts of microfinance…concepts such as dignity, self-sufficiency, accountability, impact…

Rahim Kanani: Fast-forwarding to today, how successful have you been in your efforts?

Martin Burt: 26 years later we can say that we have been partially successful. We have demonstrated that it is possible for civil society to get involved in social programs. We showed that microfinance was possible and that it was quite useful to the poor. Our institution has been sustainable for two decades, we have a profound impact in the country, and we are expanding our educational programs overseas.  We will be opening offices in Tanzania next month.

Rahim Kanani: What are some of the biggest challenges to your work?

Martin Burt: Our biggest challenge is always to get the right people. Qualified human resources are hard to find in developing countries. In addition, public policy advocacy has been difficult: politicians are hard-headed and take time in adopting new ways of thinking.

Rahim Kanani: At the same time, what are some of the biggest opportunities?

Martin Burt: We know that the poor can help themselves if treated with dignity and if provided with quality programs.

Rahim Kanani: Not only do you develop innovative solutions to poverty and unemployment, but you also proactively disseminate those solutions throughout the world. How do you go about dissemination?

Martin Burt: Our dissemination strategy aims to promote awareness, understanding, and action. We are systematizing our work, writing manuals, spreading the word in conferences and publications, holding workshops, visiting partners in different countries, and doing a lot of training. Of course, this all means that we are in a journey of learning…The more we share our work, the better we become. Sharing allows us to grow and to learn from others.



Source : Forbes
 

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