"Our 13 for 13": 13 years, 13 Major Accomplishments

Then: 2004

Now: 2017

It’s been 13 years since we launched CE Solutions with our amazing team of supporters and Guatemalan colleagues. May of 2004, to be exact. It’s been one hell of a ride!

 

Some big picture stuff to start:

 

What’s been achieved:                                  Systems Changing Social Innovations Created and Scaled

How many have been helped:                    Hundreds for Thousands of Lives Impacted

Existential threats:                                        Landslides, Volcanoes, Swine Flu, Zika Virus, Political Turmoil, Economic Collapse

Our reach:                                                        Direct Impact in Over 1,000 Communities Impacted in Six Countries

Things that didn't exist:                               Facebook, Skype, Smart Phones, Gay Marriage, Skinny Jeans (like it or not)

Relationships:                                                 New Family, New Children, New Friends, New Partnerships

Economic Impact:                                          Over $10,000,000 in Local Savings and Local Income Generated

Comings and goings:                                     Amazing Co Workers Arrived and Departed to New Life Adventures

Lots of learning:                                             New Education Opportunities for Thousands of Latin American and US Students

Heartbreak:                                                     Beloved Family, Friends, Local Team Members, and Supporters have passed on

An emotional roller coaster:                       Pain, Uncertainty, Failure, Success, Hope…Always Hope

 

Certainly no shortage of change and forces that have shaped our hearts and minds. Getting a bit more specific, we’ve decided to spell out briefly our 13 for 13 for you. This is our top 10 list plus three (with a bonus) with a look back THEN in 2004 and a brief description of where we are NOW.

 

 

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Thank you so much for making this possible and helping us to create platforms for a profound change!  We have been and continue to be so grateful to be the means by which your generosity gets converted to social impact. 

 

 

Here's how it works. From July 20th for the next 13 days, we will post one of our 13 big accomplishments per day. So, you can follow our campaign on Facebook or you can scroll down as we will then be posting each of our 13 one at a time on a daily basis below. 

 

13 for 13 for 13

1

Then: 

 In 2003 we had devised what we called the “Stove Model” using a consignment strategy to get people in the villages around Nebaj, Guatemala cook stoves for the first time in their lives by empowering local, first-time entrepreneurs. We were learning and scaling one family at a time with Augustin, our sole entrepreneur. Our aspiration was simply to get as many communities in one region of Guatemala cook stoves.

 

Now:

 We renamed our model the MicroConsignment Model in 2004, and over time this social innovation created jobs for over 500 (mostly women) local community members, most of whom previously had limited to no other income opportunities. We have reached over one thousand villages in six countries. We have directly impacted hundreds of thousands of lives. This social innovation has won a multitude of global awards. The model has been replicated around the world in places we know of in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and in many more we will never know (that’s fine with us).  

 

We have delivered over 100,000 cook stoves, eye glasses, eye drops, water filters, solar lamps, and vegetable seeds in places where these solutions never existed. This has created economic impact in excess of $12,000,000 in aggregate through earnings for entrepreneurs, earnings for the leadership of the social enterprises we created, and savings (cost avoidance) and productivity gains of community members.

#1 of 13: The MicroConsignment Model: A Social Innovation with Global Reach

 

 

     # 2 of 13: The Centro Explorativo: Access to Education for Children and Youth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then: 

In 2003 our leadership started a small library in Nebaj, Guatemala and called it the Centro Explorativo (the “Centro”). We had a few hundred donated books on some shelves we built in a small rented space. Our basic aspiration was to create a central place where school children in town could get access to reference books they needed and could have a place to read books to foster a love of reading. Practically speaking there was nowhere else to get books in town. We really just wanted to get kids access to books.

 

Now:

The Centro is now located in La Pista, a village about a 40 minute walk from Nebaj that was originally a refugee camp during the 36 year armed conflict in Guatemala. The move was made to bring us closer to those most in need. Land to build the Centro was donated by Miguel Brito Ramirez, leader of our work in Guatemala.  It sits on his property near his house. The Centro is owned and run by a local association called “La Asociacion Centro Explorativo.”.

The Centro is a now a true community institution that keeps expanding its reach and impact. We (you) provide funding, ideas and human resource support, but nearly all of the growth and innovation has been led by local Guatemalans. Monthly operating costs are approximately $2,000. Here is what has happened with that monthly investment of your generosity.

There are now thousands of books. Children can now own and exchange books.  There is a computer center with internet for all to use. The Centro is a certified Guatemala computer school (learning computer is mandatory) that prevents youth from having to go all the way to Nebaj.to take classes. Over 1,000 children and youth have attended classes on a daily basis learning math, reading, theater, chess, geography, you name it. There are adult education classes and workshops. There is a youth community impact group and a soccer team. There are three full-time teachers who earn a good living. Tens of thousands of healthy snacks have been distributed to children (Guatemala has devastating chronic malnutrition) who also get toothbrushes and toothpaste and learn about health and hygiene. Over 500 Social Entrepreneur Corps interns have volunteered at the Centro over the years.   The Centro is a wonderful living example of how a community can achieves so much when provided with a “spark” and relatively modest support. What our good friends at the Centro have done so inspires us. What started as a little room with some books has now become an institution that is changing the lives of generations of local children and youth. Bien hecho amigos!

2

     # 3  of 13: Social Entrepreneur Corps: Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders through Community                           Engagement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then: 

In 2004 we had no tangible opportunities for US/international students nor professionals to learn and engage through our work. We had a few intrepid and passionate volunteers who would learn about our efforts and help out every now and then. This was great and greatly appreciated. But it was one-off to say the least.

 

Now:

In an effort to get more people on the ground to help us problem solve, support, create and scale and with the hopes of providing a service whereby we could earn some revenues to support our work, we created Social Entrepreneur Corps (www.socialentrepreneurcorps.com) a little over 10 years ago. We were only working in Guatemala at the time. We started with a website built over an intense weekend and a crazy hope that some college students or recent graduates might find us somehow. To date, over 1,500 university students and professionals have worked side-by-side with our teams in Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, South Africa and Peru through Social Entrepreneur Corps. Amazing partners range from the likes of Duke University, to Miami University (Ohio), to UConn, to University of Maryland, to Notre Dame, to Northwestern, to Kennesaw State, to Deloitte and to Warby Parker. Participants have consulted for over 75 local organizations. They have supported the distribution of tens of thousands of technologies. They co created our social innovations in solar, water purification and community financed banks, to name a few. And most importantly, and possibly our greatest impact, participants have taken the empathy, adaptive leadership, collaborative skills, and innovation mindset that they gained through this experience out in the world and are doing truly amazing things in their lives. Intelligently working together to create community impact has made a global difference and continues to do so. Thank you Social Entrepreneur Corps participants. You rock!

3

     # 4  of 13: SolKomYo: Haitian social enterprise success we wouldn't have imagined possible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then: 

In 2004 I think we were only somewhat familiar with the term social enterprise. We knew absolutely nothing of Haiti apart from an uninformed belief that it would be nearly impossible to create sustainable social impact there. (Boy we were wrong!)

 

Now:

At the invitation of Ashoka, the IFC and a local garment factory Greg first visited Haiti in 2011 for a diagnostic visit. Limited electricity, dirt roads in a major town, community water pumps with contaminated water that frequently didn’t work, no organizations focusing on local entrepreneurship etc etc etc. And billions of dollars already “invested”. Frustrating would be a major understatement. And, a prevailing belief from so many in the international community that things “couldn’t work” in Haiti and handouts were the only solution. But most importantly, as with everywhere, there was no shortage of human dignity and hope on display. We decided this was a challenge we needed to see if we could rise to.

 

With a fair bit of anxiety, we started our work in Haiti in June of 2012. We started by trying to work with a local garment factory and a few local institutions offering the type of innovations we had developed in other places. Now the social enterprise Solisyon Kominote Yo (SolKomYo) exists. We modelling this off of our Soluciones Comunitarias experience in Guatemala and co-created SolKomYo with local Haitian leaders we identified. SolKomYo is owned and run by local, amazing Haitians in the town of Ouanaminthe, and has created impact we would have never imagined possible. You have to check out the website here to really grasp this - www.solkomyo.org. Challenge met and being met we say. Here’s a quick summary. Over $1.2 million in net economic impact. 43,000 people directly impacted. Over 10,000 vital technologies purchased by community members. $40,000 plus in local savings created through new community banks. Over 50 local entrepreneurs at work. 700 people who have participated in robust financial literacy programs now led by 10 local trainers (previous graduates). We would be remiss if we didn’t give a very special shout out to Ashoka (Linda),  Levis Strauss Foundation (Kim) and the IFC (Fares and Farid) for making this possible. You believed in us, we all believed in the Haitian spirit and dignity, and thankfully, our new Haitian friends were willing to take a chance with us. And a massive congratulations to Madalina, Gaetan and Olivia in particular. Without you none of this would have been achieved.

 

Note: For this work CE Solutions was voted as “Community Partner of the Year” by the employees at Levi Strauss and we have taken the learnings from this work to support communities in Mexico, Turkey and Egypt.

 

Our Call to Action:

 

Visit the www.cesolutions.org homepage to see a summary of last year's impact and our projected social impact over the next year. 

Go here - https://www.cesolutions.org/greg-letter - to read about how we are at a BIG STRATEGIC INFLECTION POINT.  

And contribute to our efforts. We need your support. Visit here - https://www.cesolutions.org/contribute - and make a smart investment in social impact today that will impact generations. Every contribution matters. 

4

    #5 of 13: Turismo Ixil:  A $4,000 investment that’s created over $1.5 million in local revenues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then: 

In 2004 Turismo Ixil had been up and running for two years. Turismo Ixil (Ixil Tourism) was the group of tourism businesses first started by co founder Greg Van Kirk in Nebaj, Guatemala as a “side project” when he was a Peace Corps volunteer.  With a $4,000 initial investment from his savings he started El Descanso restaurant to spark local tourism, create new, dignified jobs and help generate new revenues in the community.  The plan was to get this venture to a place of financial and administrative sustainability and then turn it over to a group of the staff who would earn ownership through sweat equity. Greg transferred ownership to the amazing people who still run it today in late 2003. By 2004 Tursmo Ixil included not just a restaurant, but as well an internet center, trekking business, Spanish language school and artisan store. CE Solutions has been supporting Turismo Ixil with strategic advice and small strategic investments ever since.

Now:

Over 15 years later Turismo Ixil is thriving. Through ups and downs Turismo Ixil is still serving the people of Nebaj every day. Here is what that $4,000 initial investment has created when combined with dogged persistence, incredible teamwork and strategic reinvestment. First, here is some important context. The average wage for an adult in Nebaj is about $250 per month.  Keep that in mind as you go read through these numbers. Here’s the impact. An estimated 330,000 served. Over $1.5 million in gross revenues. $1.275 million (about 85% of gross revenues) reinvested in goods and services in Nebaj. Roughly 75 people, mostly women and youth, employed full and part-time since inception. (That number is relatively low because there is very little staff turnover). $330,000+ in staff salaries paid. Revenues reinvested in the community to start and support The Centro Explorativo and The MicroConsignment Model. Additional support given to local education initiatives including a nearby special needs school. And let’s not forget thousands of new friendships created between people from diverse cultures. Turismo Ixil has quickly became a local institution. And we believe it is a testament to how creativity and hard work can convert even  a relatively small investment into profound and sustainable social impact when local individuals take ownership of something they truly believe in.

 

Our Call to Action:

 

Visit the www.cesolutions.org homepage to see a summary of last year's impact and our projected social impact over the next year. 

Go here - https://www.cesolutions.org/greg-letter - to read about how we are at a BIG STRATEGIC INFLECTION POINT.  

And contribute to our efforts. We need your support. Visit here - https://www.cesolutions.org/contribute - and make a smart investment in social impact today that will impact generations. Every contribution matters. 

5

    #6 of 13:  Leveraging the power of partnerships to build an ecosystem of learning and success

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then: 

In the beginning of 2004 we were by and large operating on our own. We had some smaller scale local partnerships in Nebaj, Guatemala and the support of a church in the U.S. and friends and family.

Now:

It would not be an overstatement to say that our continuous efforts to build partnerships that are “wins” for the communities we serve, “wins” for partner organizations and, and “wins” for us (as a consequence of the first two “wins”) have likely been the critical success factor as we have learned and grown our efforts.  Here are just a handful of examples. We have partnered with VisionSpring for the past 13 years. We provide them with a means to distribute eye glasses in new countries to new communities. We also consulted for VisionSpring to help them bring eye glasses to other countries in Latin America. Warby Parker provides CE Solutions with glasses as a part of their “Buy One Give One” program. And we also host their staff for trips to Latin America so they can see their contributions at work. We have worked with USAID to help other Guatemalan tourism initiatives learn from our success. We used our in country community relationships to develop a health and hygiene program for Water for People. We set up social enterprise consulting engagements for Deloitte in Nicaragua, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. We took our expertise in micro franchising to Suriname for the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB). IADB also funded a partnership between Soluciones Comunitarias and MITDLab to pilot DLab’s “Creative Capacity Building” program in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. We partner with Miami University in the development of the Center for MicroConsignment. You can read about all of our other university partnerships in #3 of 13 and our partnership with The World Bank and Levi Strauss Foundation in #4 of 13.  We partner with Ashoka in myriad ways big and small. And of course we have partnered with well over 1,000 communities and community leaders and hundreds of local organizations. And this really just scratches the surface. The question we are often asked is “How can we do so much with relatively so little?” This is how. This is the power of partnerships. And it is so often really just about bringing people together who care about the same things but play different roles and helping to ignite a spark between them. Are you looking to explore a partnership in some way with us or one of our partners that will accelerate your work? Reach out and let’s talk.

 

Our Call to Action:

 

Visit the www.cesolutions.org homepage to see a summary of last year's impact and our projected social impact over the next year. 

Go here - https://www.cesolutions.org/greg-letter - to read about how we are at a BIG STRATEGIC INFLECTION POINT.  

And contribute to our efforts. We need your support. Visit here - https://www.cesolutions.org/contribute - and make a smart investment in social impact today that will impact generations. Every contribution matters. 

6

     #7 of 13:  An expansive network of entrepreneurs and communities for prototyping and piloting vital technologies for marginalized communities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then: 

In 2004 we were working to distribute concrete cook stoves in the Ixil Region of Guatemala. We certainly didn’t realize that this would spark the creation of a means to test, modify, prioritize and distribute a broad array of technologies that people had never had access to previously.

Now:

With the creation of the MicroConsginment Model at about the same time CE Solutions was formalized, we began broadening our thinking about how we could use this new social innovation as a “learning tool” to discover which technologies people needed and truly wanted. This works and has always worked in two ways. Either we learn of a community need/want and look for a technology that can address the current challenge. Or, we learn of a new technology somewhere in the world (or someone reaches out to us) and take it out to communities through our local social enterprises and entrepreneur network to find out if there is a “fit”. The key is that since our entrepreneurs are already experts, are visiting communities and know these communities, the cost is minimal. Asking a few more questions doesn’t cost anything but a bit of time and potentially creates an opportunity for all. And when we have Social Entrepreneur Corps interns in country they play a key role in finding needs/wants and vetting solutions side by side with our team. Again, it’s all about leverage.

 

Since 2004 we have vetted well over 50 diverse technology solutions through this methodology. The first criteria is that they have a potential health, economic and/or energy impact. This has included water filters and water purification solutions, new stoves, eye glasses and other vision solutions, solar lamps and home systems, drip irrigation technology, ready to use therapeutic foods, vitamins, vegetable seeds, solar cookers, diabetes testing solutions, remote computing solutions and many more. For more reasons than we have the space to write about here, unfortunately most technology solutions aren’t quite yet “there” when it comes to meeting the needs, wants and desires of people taking into account critical personal, community, historical and cultural factors. But through our work we are able to find the ones that are “there” and also provide recommendations to technology designers to help them modify their innovations. . This continuous effort has helped over 100,000 marginalized community members in the countries where we work get access to cook stoves, clean water, dependable light, and/or vision solutions for the first time. This effort has and will continue. This is one of the most powerful “value adds” that CE Solutions brings to this work.

 

Do you have a technology that you have designed to help folks but don’t have an understanding of the “market”? Reach out. We’d love to help.

 

Our Call to Action:

 

Visit the www.cesolutions.org homepage to see a summary of last year's impact and our projected social impact over the next year. 

Go here - https://www.cesolutions.org/greg-letter - to read about how we are at a BIG STRATEGIC INFLECTION POINT.  

And contribute to our efforts. We need your support. Visit here - https://www.cesolutions.org/contribute - and make a smart investment in social impact today that will impact generations. Every contribution matters. 

7

     #8 of 13:  Local leadership: Antonio Vixama put his heart and soul into building Solkomyo and achieving his dream of a better Haiti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then: 

Antonio Vixama was born and raised in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, and has always been passionate about creating change in his community. He is 51 years old and has a wife and four children. In 2004 Antonio had already been dedicating himself to creating a better Haiti for his fellow community members. He had founded a youth organization called UJANE (Youth for the development of North East) focused on developing skills through creating community projects. Over time he also took the initiative to help earthquake victims gain access to the Dominican Republic and conducted grassroots campaigns to eradicate cholera. 

 

Now:

When we arrived in Haiti in 2012 Antonio was the field leader of a non-profit organization that worked in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. CE Solutions partnered with this organization when we first arrived and we were fortunate to get to know Antonio and understand what an incredible leader he was. As happens, the organization he was working with was winding down. We asked Antonio a question, “We want to start a social enterprise in Haiti owned and led by Haitians. How would you feel about taking a chance with us and a leadership role to turn this dream into a reality?”

 

Antonio was one of the first believers when we first presented this vision. We cannot thank him enough for this. Antonio has been leading SolKomYo since 2012. Asked why Solkomyo, Antonio says “Solkomyo does not provide the community with fish but teaches them how to fish, therefore autonomy, because it changes obstacles into opportunities”. Antonio loves his work and you can see it in everything he does. Antonio is restless, he jumps on his blue motorcycle and visits communities, talks to people about change and how to achieve it.  This is not a job for Antonio. This is his passion and self-proclaimed mission in life.  Antonio puts community first in all he does. He leads a team of five and a network of over 50 community entrepreneurs.  Through Antonio’s leadership of SolKomYo, over 40,000 of his community members have been directly and positively impacted.  And he continues to inspire other Haitians to become changemakers. With leaders like Antonio there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome. Well done Antonio! Well done SolKomYo!

 

Our Call to Action:

 

Visit the www.cesolutions.org homepage to see a summary of last year's impact and our projected social impact over the next year. 

Go here - https://www.cesolutions.org/greg-letter - to read about how we are at a BIG STRATEGIC INFLECTION POINT.  

And contribute to our efforts. We need your support. Visit here - https://www.cesolutions.org/contribute - and make a smart investment in social impact today that will impact generations. Every contribution matters. 

8

 

Contact us at:

CE Solutions

74 Riverside Drive, Apt 4F

New York, New York 10024

gregvankirk@cesolutions.org

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