Monday, April 20, 2009

Kiva: Students Supporting Entrepreneurship and Microcredit in Latin America

by Ann Abbott

When I teach "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities" I concentrate on social entrepreneurship. One of the things I try to emphasize is that social entrepreneurship should not be about "us" finding solutions for "them." In other words, people within communities that have needs (and all communities have needs) have ideas and resources for creating solutions. Many times, they just need some money or additional resources to get their own program off the ground.

To that end, I use examples of Latin American Ashoka Fellows, social entrepreneurs who have implemented their own programs--many that are completely autochthonous and could not have been imagined from someone outside of that community.

And when I teach the chapter on "Resources," I always include a lesson on Latin American small-scale entrepreneurs looking for microloans through in order to build their own enterprises--not ones that someone from another continent has deemed appropriate for them. This is how I organize the lesson:
  1. Before class, students have to go to and choose one entrepreneur from a Spanish-speaking country to whom they want to give $100. (Go to this page, click on the "Region" menu, and select North America, Central America and South America)
  2. In class, I put students in pairs. They have ten minutes to present the case of each entrepreneur they picked. At the end of the ten minutes, the pair has to choose which one entrepreneur they think should get $100.
  3. Two pairs now present their entrepreneur to each other. After ten minutes, the group of four must now support only one entrepreneur.
  4. Finally, the remaining entrepreneurs are presented to the whole class, and the whole class must decide on one entrepreneur that will receive the $100. They have to defend their reasons for choosing one over the other, and ideally they should challenge each other before they finally settle on one.
  5. When the decision is made, I loan $100 of my own money to the chosen entrepreneur.
This semester, my SPAN 332 students chose Mujeres luchando por el progreso group. This group of women quickly received the full value of the loan they wanted, and they have already paid back $15.19 of the original $100 I loaned them. I think my students made an excellent choice!

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