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. This has made it crucial to develop alternatives that provide solutions that 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 has already held other events in the Southern Cone and Central American regions which have 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, B.A. in finance and a social projects technician; 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 pitch before an international jury, our team was honored to be chosen as the winning project with a proposal called “LANA Hermana”, whose initials in Spanish can be loosely translated as “Sisters Supporting Sisters”. The project aims to create an emotional and productive connection between Ecuadorian women and migrant women that empowers the participants and increases both sorority and economic inclusion in pandemic times. Some important highlights of the proposal include:
- Its horizontal structure, which reduces dependency;
- Its systemic nature, in line with Fundación Pa’Arriba Ecuador’s general holistic outlook;
- Its creativity, with the incorporation of artistic and playful elements as generators of self-esteem and personal growth; and,
- Its community base, including participating in our Neighborly Conversations Dialog Circles which build relationships and promote inclusion.
The phases of this pilot project are:
Phase 1. “Outreach and Pairing of our LANA Hermanas”. This phase begins with the launch of a communications campaign designed to identify possible participants who want to work together with other women to support each other emotionally and 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 work on creating ways for our LANA Hermanas to improve their productive capabilities through practical courses and workshops that will give them the skills they need to create their own micro enterprises that will become income generators for them 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, this connection will happen through an Expo Fair that will be open to the public.
The seed capital provided by Innovación para el Cambio to the winning team will allow Fundación Pa’Arriba Ecuador, together with the designated LANA Hermana team, to implement this pilot project that will connect 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.
Quito residents are welcome to join us as a LANA Hermana or you can contribute to help us successfully carry out the program and, hopefully, expand it in the future!