By: Lisa Markovits
The pandemic has brought challenges to people around the world, and Latin America has been particularly hard hit – and even more so for vulnerable groups such as immigrants, migrants and refugees. It is therefore critical to develop alternatives that provide solutions which allow us all to live in communities of peace. And this is precisely the focus of the Innovation Lab for the Andean Region, organized last month by Innovación para el Cambio (Innovation for Change). This workshop –open to citizens, companies, NGOs and other civil society organizations– utilized Design Thinking methodology to explore ways to work together on a concrete issue: How to Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19 on the Human Rights of Migrants, Refugees, Displaced Peoples and Other Vulnerable Communities in the Andean Region.
The Lab had already held events in the Southern Cone and Central American regions, which led to the implementation of other innovative projects. On this occasion, Fundación Pa’Arriba Ecuador (Pa’Arriba Foundation’s local chapter in Ecuador) agreed to take up the challenge, together with over 60 other participants from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
Our volunteer, Gabriela Sánchez, who holds dual degrees in public administration and industrial psychology and supports us in human resources and international cooperation, joined forces with an ad hoc team that came together just for the event;
Nathali Cedeño, social worker with a B.A. in Finance;
Porfirio Jimenez Rios PhD., economist and retired professor at well-known Ecuadorian universities (Universidad de Fuerzas Armadas – ESPE and Universidad Central del Ecuador), both from the Social and Technological Development Foundation (Fundación Desarrollo Social y Tecnológico – FUNDESOTEC);
Karla Rodríguez, specialist in natural fibers and varied textile products and director of KUN Eco Fibers, a company based in Quito; and
Sharon Ortega, an Ecuadorian student currently pursuing her Master’s in International Relations in Russia.
After two weeks of high-pressure development work and a presentation to an international jury, our team was honored to be chosen as the winning project with a proposal entitled “LANA Hermana”, whose initials in Spanish can be loosely translated as “Sisters Supporting Sisters”.
The objective of the project is to create an emotional and productive connection between Ecuadorian and migrant women that empowers all participants and increases both sisterhood and economic inclusion during the pandemic.
Some important highlights of the proposal include:
- A horizontal structure which reduces dependency
- A systemic nature, in keeping with Fundación Pa’Arriba Ecuador’s overall holistic outlook;
- Creativity, incorporating artistic and playful elements as generators of self-esteem and personal growth; and,
- A foundation in the community, including participation in our Neighborly Conversations Dialog Circles for building relationships and promoting inclusion.
The phases of this pilot project are:
Phase 1. “Outreach and Pairing of our LANA Hermanas”.
This phase begins with a campaign designed to identify potential participants wishing to work with other women for mutual support and to create microenterprises.
Two groups of women will be defined in parallel: local and migrant women. Once identified, our team will use basic psychological testing to match compatible candidates as “LANA Hermanas” or “Support Sisters”.
Phase 2. “Exploring the capabilities of our LANA Hermanas”.
This phase will focus on creating ways for our LANA Hermanas to improve their productive skills through practical courses and workshops so that they may create their own microenterprises and generate income for themselves and their families. The “Support Sisters” will help each other learn.
Phase 3. “Empowering our LANA Hermanas.” How? By connecting them with private and public organizations that allow them to gain access to markets for their businesses. For the pilot project, market exposure will be gained via an Expo Fair open to the public.
The seed capital provided by Innovación para el Cambio to our winning team will allow Fundación Pa’Arriba Ecuador, together with the designated LANA Hermana team, to implement this pilot project with the aim of connecting women in the city of Quito. This incredible program will also have the support of volunteers and specialists in numerous related fields such as psychology, marketing, communications, finance and other areas. It is our honor to serve as a sponsoring organization for this innovative proposal and we want to invite you to participate as well.
We invite Quito residents to join us as a LANA Hermana or to support us in ensuring the program’s success and, hopefully, expanding it in the future.