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 Executive Summary

Despite the growing interest in social investments in Asia, there exists a resource disconnect between funders and Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs). To this end, AVPN was established to foster multi-sector collaborations for social investments in Asia through convening engagements, including the Deal Share and our annual AVPN conference. Through these engagements, it is evident that there is immense potential for different types of resource providers and SPOs to work closely together to deliver social impact. While governments have a vital role to play, it is increasingly the private sector that is stepping up to tackle the challenges of income inequality and poverty. In this article, we explore how resource providers are building multi sector collaborations with SPOs, and the role that AVPN plays in fostering these partnerships.

Resource Disconnect Between Funders and Social Purpose Organizations

With the increasingly complex social and environmental issues that Asian economies face today, the pressure has heightened for the private and public sector to support businesses with social impact. Despite a growing interest and commitment by stakeholders, there exists a gap between funders and Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs)1. Among AVPN’s 492 members across 32 countries, more than $3 billion of financial capital was deployed in the last 12 months across a spectrum of financial instruments including grants, debt, convertible debt, and equity. Yet, the common feedback is that funders struggle to identify the right SPOs. Conversely, SPOs that require support to start, scale, and operate sustainably have faced challenges connecting with relevant resource providers and partners. 

Building Social Investment Communities Across Asia

To address the issue of appropriate capital across the risk/return spectrum, and the lack of quality investment opportunities, it is important to convene a diverse group of social investors and provide them with a platform to foster collaboration. At AVPN, we see the value in establishing the Deal Share Platform (DSP) as part of our efforts to facilitate the building of a resource pipeline, support members in identifying investable organizations, and to enhance connections. The connections are not just made between resource providers, intermediaries, and SPOs, but also between SPOs. 

By streamlining communications on existing and prospective funding and collaboration opportunities, the DSP not only provides connections in a more targeted manner, but it also increases the visibility of members’ work and high-impact SPOs. While the online platform provides year-round accessibility, we also recognize the importance of in-person engagements to deepen understanding of happenings on the ground. 

The Deal Share Live (DSL) participants, like the DSP highlight projects in Asia, are endorsed by AVPN members, and showcase their work to the wider community at annual AVPN conferences and curated regional events. These sessions are crafted according to the audience and markets. They could take place in various formats including roundtable and panel discussions, site visits, and mentorship provided by AVPN members allowing for the exchange of practical capacity building knowledge, evaluation of impact funding opportunities, and an understanding of the landscape in which each stakeholder operates.

At the upcoming AVPN Conference 2018, DSL partners Johnson & Johnson and the British Council to feature 16 innovative SPOs that bring economically empowering solutions to low-income populations through affordable and inclusive health and employment solutions; as well as supporting women and girls, unemployed youth, and other marginalized groups through innovative approaches in the creative economies. Delegates comprised of funders, intermediaries, and policymakers will have an opportunity to engage in an intimate discussion with DSL participants at these breakout sessions. Some examples include:

  • Ko Shwe Ventures: Launched the first affordable oral healthcare products for low-income betel chewers to battle oral cancer in Myanmar and across Asia. 
  • OneSky: Provides early childhood care in Vietnam's industrial zone to educate the children of workers while protecting them from abuse due to neglect and improper training. 
  • Roots of Health: Educates girls in the Philippines on sexual and reproductive health issues, and trains youth as advocates.
  • Khushi Baby: Created an inexpensive necklace with cloud technology to cover last mile maternal and child healthcare in India.
  • Jaga Me: Provides a digital healthcare platform that enables patients to access quality healthcare from home through a global care community network.

Besides the Deal Share Live sessions, there will also be robust discussions among funders, intermediaries, and policymakers on how to support the growth of Social Purpose Organizations. These include the Scaling up Social Purpose Organizations, Collaborating to Meet the SDGs, Existing Alternatives in Impact Investment and Policy Lab sessions. AVPN has also launched the Continuum of Capital reports ahead of the Conference reports to examine how all kinds of capital work together in the social investment ecosystem.   

Fostering Action-Oriented Collaboration with AVPN Members

Beyond the conference, there is immense potential for different types of resource providers and SPOs to work closely together to deliver social impact. While governments have a vital role to play, it is increasingly the private sector that is stepping up to tackle the challenges of income inequality and poverty.  

Corporations Championing Inclusive Business Models 

A growing number of corporations are developing inclusive business models across the supply chain. One such example is Covestro, a leading global manufacturer of high tech polymer products. Covestro’s inclusive business approach includes providing low-income consumers with affordable housing and food security solutions including through partnering with SPOs for solar dryers. In Myanmar, Covestro is partnering with Natural Farm Fresh, an agriculture social enterprise in Yangon. Natural Farm Fresh works with Covestro to develop and scale their solar drying business for smallholder farmers across Myanmar, which can significantly improve food security and income for farmers.

Co-investment Funding Approach to Scale 

Funders are also adopting a co-investment approach to ensure that their invested impact businesses can scale. Evergreen Labs, an early stage investor and incubator based in Vietnam, adopts an active approach with its portfolio by developing the projects far enough until they could be spun off into their own legal entity, with Evergreen Labs holding an equity stake. Evergreen Labs also take on cross-border operating and market entry partner roles with influential startups who want to enter the Vietnamese market. Through the AVPN Conference 2017, Evergreen Labs signed a MoU to become the local implementation partner for DSL participant, Dr. Noah, a startup from South Korea focused on producing sustainable, bamboo toothbrushes and products.

Government’s Role in Transforming Change

The role that the government plays is pertinent in transforming models of change within the country. A DSL participant at the inaugural 2017 AVPN India Summit- Muktangan,, an education NGO providing free holistic education for the underserved communities in Mumbai, has demonstrated how a successful public-private partnership model can work to effectively scale up its impact for the education sector. The seven Muktangan schools (called spokes) and teacher education centers (called hubs) operate through a strong public-private partnership with the Mumbai municipal schooling system, demonstrating the effectiveness of the model within the mainstream education system. Credit Suisse has also recently signed a MoU with Muktangan in support of its Integrated Teacher and School Education program from June 2017 through May 2020.

Maximizing Impact in Social Investment

As the largest unique funders’ network in Pan-Asia, AVPN is committed to building a vibrant and high-impact philanthropy and social investment community across Asia. As a platform, advocate, and capacity builder that cuts across private, public, and social sectors, AVPN embraces all types of engagement to improve the effectiveness of its members across the Asia Pacific region.

The annual AVPN conference convenes a diverse group of funders and resource providers to take part in the largest gathering of social investors in Asia. They represent corporations, foundations, intermediaries, impact investors, and policymakers, and provide opportunities for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and advocacy for the growth of the social sector ecosystem in Asia. This collation stresses the importance of strategic, collaborative, and outcome-focused approaches to social investing -- from philanthropy to impact investing,

Since its launch in 2016, the DSP now has more than 280 deals listed on its platform that are supported by members. SPOs on the DSP are creating social impact in diverse sectors including education and capacity building training, responsible production and purchases, inclusive healthcare, wastewater treatment, and bio-diversity conservation. In recognition of its innovative efforts, the DSP won the Distinction Award at the 10th Anniversary Swiss Philanthropy Foundation “Great!” event in September 2017. 

Besides the online Deal Share Platform that feature high-impact SPOs endorsed by members, AVPN also curate engagements in different Deal Share Live formats. 
Photo by AVPN.

Author Bio

Joy Teo is the AVPN Deal Share Senior Associate. For more on Joy’s professional background visit:

1 Social purpose organizations refer to non-profit organizations (NPOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charities and social enterprises (SEs) that interact directly with beneficiaries and whose primary objective is to deliver social impact.


According to the “Keys of the Social Innovation in Latin America” publication of the CEPAL (Economic Commission to Latin America and Caribbean) of 2008, “Innovations only make sense if they are spread and designed to serve others in all the countries of the region. If the analyzed experiences are taken as models of concrete actions of public policy, they will turn into a driving force able to reduce inequalities and enhance the social cohesion of the whole region.”1 

It is precisely in that regard that the mission of the Social Innovations Journal of serving as a platform to provide visibility to social innovations in a regional ecosystem, takes on a great importance. 

This edition will focus on what is taking place in Chile and Argentina. 

We are not trying in any way to offer one formula since it is essential to consider the economic, political, and social characteristics of each country. However, the development of social innovations faces common challenges such as opposition and reluctance to change and the need to build partnerships and deal with endogenous and exogenous obstacles to their implementation. Whereby it is possible that the analysis and the understanding of the way these aspects have been addressed may serve as an example and trigger to finding adaptable commonalities to specific situations in other countries. 

First, we will show the general panorama of Latin America and its way of addressing the matter of social innovation in order to proceed with the particularities of the social innovations in Chile and Argentina. Finally, the articles presented in this edition will be introduced. 

Starting from the general frame of Latin America, it can be said that the experience of the region in designing and implementing policies of innovation began in the 1950’s. In several Latin American countries, public entities were created to promote scientific progress and research. For instance, in 1958, Argentina created the National Council of Investigation and Technics, CONICET and in 1967, Chile founded its own National Commission to Scientific Investigation and Technology, CONICYT. At the time, innovation was only seen as linear. In other words, the process started with basic scientific research for the development of new products and then, it the focus was on its commercialization. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, following the principles of the Washington Consensus, the State identified the needs of the market and accordingly adjusted its public policies to allow the private sector to look for solutions to those needs. 

Today, the process involves not only the private sector but also universities, research centers, and public sectors as active participants of the innovation process. However, according to the CEPAL, that structure of actors has not yet been consistently established throughout Latin America as it lacks spaces for dialogue to create a synergy of goals and possibilities. In addition, most of the countries of the region also lack State mechanisms that would fuel the innovation process.  

The studies of CEPAL that have compared the results in Knowledge, Technology, and Research (CTI) of the region, with more developed countries, show substantial differences increasing over time. The low level of investment in innovative activities and scarce dynamism have been a constant in Latin American economies.2 

Even though the region presents a high level of heterogeneity in respect to its commitment to the CTI, it stayed more in the speeches than in concrete actions. Aiming its strength at the CTI would drive these countries to develop new spaces to reinforce their competitiveness based on knowledge, innovation, and the development of new technologies, but also supporting the growth of teams that would generate structural changes, diversify productivity, and achieve an authentic, sustainable, inclusive, and long-term competitiveness.3 

On the other hand, there is the point that social innovation is used specifically to search for solutions to issues that are not properly covered by the market or public sector. In that sense, social innovation aims to positively transform the life of a group or community, associating stakeholders who do not usually work together to generate important cultural changes. Those who are directly affected, the civil society, have been empowered with the responsibility of becoming architects of their own fate, and promoting changes from their local areas that would have an impact on the decisions of the State through public policies reflecting those changes. 

This implies a joint analysis of the way innovation in the scientific, technological, and then in the social field as a subdivision, would incorporate scientific knowledge into local knowledge and the concrete experience of the local stakeholders. 


With the departure from the fixed exchange parity regime at the end of 2001, the country went from a social situation of poverty rates of more than 50 percent of the population, and unemployment and underemployment issues for one-third of Argentinians,4 to the last decade that was characterized by an economic process of strong growth and significant social improvement. 

According to the World Bank, “Argentina is/witness in a process of economic transformation that promotes sustainable economic development with social inclusion and insertion in the global economy and has had the best performance in poverty reduction and shared prosperity impetus/impulse in the region between 2004 and 2008.”5

The presidential elections of late 2015 led to a significant change in the Argentinian economic policy. The first signs of the trend towards social innovation could be found following the first round of local entrepreneurs (social start-ups) and civic innovation laboratories like the one of the city of Buenos Aires.6

Statistics show that at least 30 percent of the projects that are being hatched in Argentina, have a strong component of social innovation and this trend allows hope that this will continue to grow in the future. Likewise, several provincial and municipal governments (including some big-scale firms/businesses) will start their own “laboratories of innovation” with a labelled social seal as a way to answer to complex issues.7

This particular emphasis in systemic long-term policies with clear strategic orientation as well as the search for increased integration and coordination, were consolidated in 2007 when the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Productive Innovations was created. It originated as a process of hierarchization and better institutionalization of the CTI policy.

It is important to highlight that Argentina is accountable with a National Plan of Science, Technology, and Innovation that is leading the way to set the country on the right track with better indicators of quality of life, productive competitiveness, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability by 2020. With the goal of securing and strengthening these policies in a sustainable way, this plan utilizes as its main tools, innovation and knowledge under the strategy of focalization, has been created, and represents a change from traditional strategies. 

The strategy of focalization seeks to direct efforts towards significant impacts in the social and private sectors in Argentina through the support of science, technology, and innovation. 

The underlying objective is to promote a dynamic of interaction between the institutions of knowledge creation and the potential beneficiaries of the scientific and technological breakthroughs, in other words, between the different actors intervening in the process of social and private innovation. 

This strategy takes inspiration from the experience that the Ministry has developed in the last years of implementation of the Sectorial Funds. It deals with the design of a model of innovative management with the innovation boosted from the initial steps of the association of actors of common interest, through the evaluation of feasibility, to the concrete realization of the desired innovation. 

The Plan exposes the main axes of the to-be implemented and strengthened policies in order to properly answer the challenge of building a country that offers equality of opportunities to anyone. 

The proposed methodology represents in itself an innovation since it establishes Tables of Implementation wherein the public officers of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the public officers of other jurisdictions, private sector actors, NGOs, scientists, and scholars, gather to discuss and look for consensus on the direction of the country. From these discussions will result Operative Plans that will execute the funds and undertaking of a follow up and evaluation of the completed actions. 

The main objective of the Plan is to “Bolster productive, inclusive, and sustainable innovation based on the expansion, the advance, and full use of the national scientific-technological capacity, then increase the competitiveness of the economy to improve the quality of life of the population within the framework of sustainable development.”8

The challenge for Argentina would be, then, to articulate and coordinate efforts, and to create a welcoming environment with a regulatory framework that would allow stakeholders to envision innovation as a competitive strategy of development.   


Chile is the most competitive and the best environment to do business in Latin America. In fact, for the period between 2000-2014, the Chilean economy grew an average of 4.3 percent in real terms (information provided by the Central Bank of Chile).  

The country succeeds in creating a favorable atmosphere for investment and its development based on commercial openness, strong institutions, fiscal and monetary stability, as well as secure financial market. 

According to the Plan of Innovation of Chile 2014-2018, the country should move from economy growth based on productive factors, physical capital over human capital, towards a knowledge economy based on innovation to increase efficiency and productivity.9

Even though Chile is still far away from the appropriate amount of resources dedicated to Research and Development in its PIB, the quality and efficiency of research conducted in the country is accurate and increasing. The issue is that research done in universities has little connection with the private sectors of the country. This results in the areas where research is carried out, not being aligned with the real productive situation of the country and not led by innovation. 

From another perspective, the role of the State in the development of innovation in Chile is an issue worth analyzing. The State must help to reduce the failures of the market presented in the innovation process, help the private sector in financing risky technological activities, finance science, and encourage a cultural transformation to entrepreneurship, innovation, and the use of science as a tool to solve problems across sectors. This cultural change requires a continuous dialogue with the private sector. 

According to Cristián Figueroa, Director of the Public Responsibility and Social Innovation from the University of the Desarrollo (UDD) in Chile, “social innovation is the process of identifying what exists and detailing how to transform it into something more innovative to strengthen its social impact.”10

José Manuel Moller, Founder of Algramo said that “it is difficult to find success cases in this field because a company who is trying to strengthen their position by equilibrating economics with social needs and with the environmental protection requires more time, effort, and intelligence from their managers.”11

Rocío Fonseca, Executive Director of Start-Up Chile added that the country is leading the field in Latin America but “sometimes the profile of the entrepreneur is so social that it leaves aside the business vision and fails in generating profits and scaling.”12

Having analyzed all these challenges, the Plan of Innovation of Chile establishes four axes of action:  

A. Democratize innovation procedures in small and big companies, the public sector, and society.  

This objective implies three lines of action:  

1. Promotion of innovation in business by two frames: 

a). Program of Technological Business Innovations: Through the CORFO, Corporation of Production Promotion, Agency of the Government of Chile, aim to promote innovation in national companies through financing projects working to develop new products and services and/or process or improvement, allowing them to increase their productivity/competitivity in the market they compete. 

b). Centers of Technological Extension: They provide a variety of specialized technological services and technical assistance to provide proper technological knowledge and improve capacity and strengthen their ability to innovate.  

2.     Innovation for Inclusive Growth: 

Innovation is not only focused on increasing productivity but also on solving social and public challenges. The efforts are focused on: 

a). Social Innovation Program: It promotes initiatives with high social, labor, and environmental impact, where the main objective is to create social value. 

b). Public Innovation Policy: Oriented to develop procedures and a culture of innovation within the Government and its institutions to achieve a continuous improvement in its relationship with citizens and in its functioning. The Committee of Innovation in the Public Sector will implement these actions and create the first GobLab Latin America.  

3.     Ecosystem and Culture of Entrepreneurship and Innovation:  

To install and consolidate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship there are several directions to take:  

a). Extension of Programs to support basic entrepreneurship: Through the expansion of Start-Up Chile into other regions to create a cultural change and share experiences and knowledge. There are also plans for the creation of infrastructure like cowork spaces and global hubs in each region to establish networks to promote the sharing of information and increase capital funds to create new companies. 

b). Support to Scaling: Building platforms to create and finance new ideas.  

B. Contribute to diversification of the productive matrix. 

In other words, to open spaces for new areas and enhance competitive sectors through an active and dynamic industrial policy promoting innovations and enabling the economy to diversify its productivity as follows: 

a). Strategic Programs of Intelligent Specialization: Through articulated work between public and private sectors. 

b). Founds of Strategic Investments: Providing financing to promote competitivity of sectors with high potential of growth through public investment or mechanisms of joint investment with private sector. 

c). Strengthening the Office of Industrial Liaison inside the Ministry of Economy.  

C. Increase the production of new knowledge (Research and Development) and the connection between companies and this knowledge via technological transfer. 

Through two tools: 1) Increasing public financing in Applied Research and Development and 

2). National Plan for Technological and Knowledge Transfer: Oriented to articulate joint work between governmental agencies in the design and improvement of existing programs using a monitoring system.  

D. Strengthen institutions in order to enhance public action’s impact and the capacity to follow up and assess the resources allocated to this area.  

In recent years there has being improvements to institutionalize our National Innovation System. Some examples are: the creation of a National Council of Innovation for Development with a new legal status that allows its financial and political Independence from the government in turn; the creation of the Committee of Ministers for Competitivity Innovation; and finally, the creation of a Platform of Information of the National Innovation System that provides the required data to take decisions and make studies and assessments of all the programs and tools of the system.  

Therefore, the Plan has all the required elements to positively promote the development of social innovation in Chile, only time will tell if it has been enough to achieve these objectives.  

Introducing the Articles of This Edition 

This edition will show different ways of adapting social innovations in Chile and Argentina as follows: 

The Laboratory of Social Innovations of Buenos Aires creates a space of encounter, where innovative solutions to social problems emerge to strengthen the social impact of current initiatives. The article highlights three projects: The LabJóvenes (16-24 years), el Impactec, and a contest that encourages the technological development of start-ups with social impact and several social inclusion projects.  

Buenos Aires City Social Innovation Lab: We identify Needs and Generate Innovative Solutions

The work developed by the Mi Parque Foundation, in Chile, is focused on building green areas and parks by directly involving the community in the design, building, and protection of these zones. The appropriation of these areas for community use has resulted in positive effects in the quality of life for residents and in the preservation of these spaces.  

Recovering Public Spaces Along with Communities

A multidisciplinary team in Argentina shows the Chagas disease from an integral, creative, innovative, and kaleidoscopic view in order to face jointly its biomedical, socio cultural, epidemiologic, and political dimensions from several disciplines, scenarios, and languages.  

Education, Communication, and Lots of Creativity: A Good Combination to Face Complex Problems Like Chagas

The social and environmental challenge to the access of water resources, erosion, and desertification for the communities living in the Coquimbo region in Chile, has led a team to work jointly with these communities to share knowledge to empower them to find solutions to their sustainable development.  

The Challenge of Desertification from a Social Innovation Perspective: Technology Transfer of Fog Catcher to Agricultural Communities in Northern Chile

Through the Tiendas Solidarias, the Corporation of Help to Burnt Children, COANIQUEM, is helping with the financing of treatment for children and youth who have burns and, in addition, is working to promote the creation of a community that participates as volunteers in shops that enable people with low-economic resources to buy goods at reduced prices. 

Fundraising and Solidarity -- New Opportunities Through the Model Solidarity Stores

The innovative proposal to recognize the Pueblos Originarios de Argentina as agents of public law with a non-governmental status, by respecting their right to self-police, could create the legal framework required to achieve their social inclusion in Argentina by empowering them as the architects of their own destiny in a sustainable way.  

Recognition and Inclusion of the Native Communities of Argentina

The Project Open Doors Kindergarten, Live School, has a different approach to education. Using different forms of art they are creating bridges of learning to stimulate creativity and enthusiasm, while producing social impact among the community of students, families, and professors.  

About What is Known, A Different Approach

The Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos S.A. entity is developing innovative initiatives to face the challenge of providing access to potable water and sanitation systems to popular neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. 

The Challenges of Drinking Water and Sanitation Accessibility in Low-Income Neighborhoods in Buenos Aires

Social Projects is an organization dedicated to community work and, particularly, the systematization of 23 projects implemented in a popular neighborhood in the south area of Buenos Aires between 2007 and 2015. Each project shares the objective of improving the conditions of life for this population and mitigating the effects of exclusion and social inequity.  

Strategies and Tools for Intervention in Community Work Oriented to Social Inclusion


Innovation emerges from the intersection between different processes, where theory meets practice, where innovators share experiences, sponsors finance and take risks, public and private organizations cooperate, scientific information is sound, and where knowledge comes from the experiences and the practical needs being met. The key is synergy.13 By creating spaces of encounter for academia, state, the private sector, and civil society the path forward towards sustainable and inclusive development becomes clearer.  

In most Latin-American countries, the local government only provides public services that were transferred from the central government, mostly without the required resources to manage them properly. Actions are required in both fronts. At the local level, it is essential to strengthen local governments to enable them to lead the process of social and economic development; and at the national level, the government must create the required infrastructure and regulatory framework to achieve this development.   

After analyzing the situation in these countries, it is possible to confirm the importance of social innovation and its role to promote the development of the region. It requires a joint, multidisciplinary approach to coordinate a team with the capacity to make decisions and create innovative experiences. In addition, experience shows the need for, on one hand, a leader who is an inspiring and passionate person who channels the energy of the community and focuses their skills to guide and transform ideas into facts, while also demonstrating the need for a community committed to seeking out sustainable solutions to regain their dignity.  

The current status is clear, and though difficult, a path has been laid out. 

Works Cited

“La innovación social: la próxima tendencia en innovación” Pablo Piccoletto 22 mayo 2015

“América Latina: La falta de Innovación dificulta la creación de empleos de calidad. Diciembre 5, 2013

Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

Plan Nacional de Innovación Chile 2014 – 2018. División de Innovación, Ministerio de Economía, Fomento y Turismo. Santiago diciembre 2015.

“Claves de la Innovación Social en América Latina y el Caribe”. Rodríguez Herrera, Adolfo; Alvarado Ugarte, Hernán. CEPAL Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe. Libros de la CEPAL. Santiago, Noviembre 2008. 

“Nuevas Instituciones para la Innovación: Prácticas y Experiencias en América Latina”. Gonzalo Rivas, Sebastián Rovira Editores. CEPAL-NACIONES UNIDAS Santiago 2014.

“Estudio Económico de América Latina y el Caribe 2017. La dinámica del ciclo económico actual y los desafíos de política para dinamizar la inversión y el crecimiento”. CEPAL NACIONES UNIDAS. Santiago 2017. 

“Argentina Innovadora 2020: Plan Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación. Lineamientos Estratégicos 2012-2015”. Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva. Secretaría de Planeamiento y Políticas. Buenos Aires. 


1Claves de la Innovación Social en América Latina y el Caribe. CEPAL .2008. 


3Nuevas Instituciones para la Innovación. Prácticas y Experiencias en América Latina. CEPAL. 2014 

4Argentina innovadora Plan 2020

5Banco Mundial 

6La Innovación social: La próxima tendencia en innovación. Pablo Picoletto.  


8Argentina Innovadora Plan 2020

9Plan de innovación de Chile 

10Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

11Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

12Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

13Claves de la innovación social en América Latina. CEPAL. 2008

On October 26, 2017, three promising projects will be awarded the 2017 European Social Innovation Competition prize.

The Background

The European Social Innovation Competition was established in 2012 in the memory of Diogo Vasconcelos. Mr Vasconcelos was a Portuguese politician who was very active in promoting social innovation, and who focused his role on fostering innovation to address some of the great societal challenges of our time. During his career, he worked closely with the European Commission and others on issues such as globalization, sustainability and climate change, urbanization, democratic participation, public services, and healthcare. 

In particular, he provided input to the European Commission, in the context of innovation policy after the 2010 Lisbon strategy. He was part of the origin of the Social Innovation Europe initiative by the European Commission in early 2011. He was also chairman of the Social Innovation Exchange and launched the Entrepreneurs Academy among other accomplishments. He passed away in July 2011 at the age of 43.

Since then, The European Commission has remained committed to supporting social innovation through different initiatives. The competition is organized by the European Commission, supported by Nesta, Kennisland, Shipyard, and Impact Hub.

Social Innovation and the European Commission Today

For the European Commission, social innovation is about transforming the challenges our societies face into opportunities to create new solutions, business models, jobs, and more sustainable and inclusive growth. The Commission believes social innovation can lead to higher quality public services, value for money in the public sector, and savings for public budgets. The European Social Innovation Competition was created to showcase and support the best ideas that tackle societal issues across the continent. It is designed to support change through a bottom-up, co-creative, and participatory process at the local level. 

The Commission awards prizes of €50,000 to three projects each year. It also includes an incubation element that supports projects becoming more robust and sustainable through a mentoring academy and coaching scheme. The academy also helps project teams better pitch their ideas to attract funding and strategic partners. The new skills, together with enhanced visibility, the establishment of pan-European networks, and cooperation opportunities and, in the case of the winners, the seed money of the prize, contribute to the projects having a better chance for success and opportunity to scale up, and generates positive effects on the economy and the local community or society at large.

On top of the European Social Innovation Competition, the European Commission is active in supporting social innovation in a variety of ways. These include: financing, guarantee schemes, and support for the creation of networks and matchmaking.

Funding to support social innovation is available through a variety of sources, including the Employment and Social Innovation Program, which offers guarantees and capacity building for interested microcredit providers to finance social innovators and social entrepreneurs. Seed funding for the development of innovative ideas that address social challenges is available through the Social Challenges Platform. It is a space where local communities and authorities can promote a social challenge they would like to solve. Innovators can pitch their ideas and receive seed funding to demonstrate their project. 30 challenges are currently open for innovators to submit their ideas to until December 21, 2017.

Even more is done to favor networking among organizations across Europe through the Social Innovation Community portal, which showcases social innovation projects around Europe and supports co-creation and the sharing of good ideas.

The Competition This Year

In response to digitization’s transformative effect on society and the labor market, this year’s Competition aims to “reboot” equality and ensure technology is used to allow everyone in Europe to benefit from the opportunities created by technological change. The 2017 theme was designed to inspire Europeans to provide fresh, energetic approaches to digital inclusion, connectivity, and skills development.

Economic growth should not benefit the lucky few, but should also provide opportunities for all. The competition this year enables inclusive growth by encouraging ideas to equip people with the skills they need to be able to compete in a changing economy.  It is our aim that innovators will create business models that allow everyone to equally seize the opportunities offered by technological change. 

In February, the 2017 Competition launched in Athens, and the Commission sought inspiring ideas, large and small, from people all around Europe. The competition was open to entrepreneurs, social innovators, students, designers, makers, tech enthusiasts, educators, and people from diverse backgrounds from across Europe. 

As in previous years, the competition was open to applicants throughout the European Union and in countries participating in the Horizon 2020 program. This year there were nearly 800 applications from 40 countries across Europe.

The written applications phase closed in April 2017, following which time the jury panel made up of experts in the social and digital innovation space, met and determined the 30 semi-finalists. Each semi-finalist project team was invited to the 2017 Social Innovation Mentoring Academy in Madrid, where they worked with experts in social innovation to refine their ideas and develop their business plans.

All 30 semi-finalists then submitted their detailed business plans, including projects for how they will remain sustainable, what they will use the €50,000 for, and detailing any prototypes or test phases completed to date. Following this submission, the jury met again to determine the 10 Finalists, and after pitching at the Awards Ceremony in Brussels, the three 2017 winners will be announced.

Before pitching to the jury of social innovators and tech experts at the awards ceremony in Brussels, the winners were chosen based on how they have successfully and impressively proven how digital technologies can improve people's lives. The innovative projects demonstrate how everyday parts of a person's life whether it be learning, reading, or living in an apartment can be made more accessible for all of society. 

In addition to the three 2017 winners, one 2016 Competition semi-finalist will win the Impact Prize for its achievements in empowering refugees’ integration (the theme of the 2016 Competition).

The Impact Prize will award €50,000 to the 2016 semi-finalist who achieves the most significant, measurable impact in the year following the submission of a detailed business plan in September 2016.

All semi-finalists from the previous year were invited to complete an impact report by the submission deadline. Entries were judged by the jury panel from the 2016 Competition and the winner will be announced at the Awards Ceremony in Brussels on October 26, 2017. The Impact Prize was first awarded in 2016.

An Introduction to the 2017 Nominees of The 2017 European Social Innovation Competition

The European Social Innovation Competition, launched in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos, is a challenge prize run by the European Commission across all European countries, now in its fifth year. The theme of the 2017 competition is Equality Rebooted and seeks to find innovations in tools, services, and models that allow everyone to seize the opportunities offered by technological change.

In response to digitization’s transformative effect on society and the labor market, this year’s Competition aims to ‘reboot’ equality and ensure technology is used to enable everyone in Europe to benefit from the opportunities created by technological change. 

We would like to thank the 2017 semi-finalists, and the participants who have chosen to share the details of their social innovation projects for this edition of the Social Innovations Journal.

We now have the honor of introducing the innovators and their work. 

MODI – The Museum of Diversity and Inclusion by Dr. Andreas Heinecke & Katharina Petersen

CUE by Alexia Stamatelatou 

Hackability, Digital Fabrication, Technology, and Design for Social Impact by Carlo Boccazzi Varotto, Gabriele Ermacora & Ludovico Orlando Russo 

Touch Screen without Barriers: Mouse4all Innovation to Make Technology Accessible by José Ángel Jiménez Vadillo & Javier Montaner Gutiérrez 

Arts Abroad: The Changing Cultural Landscape in Spain and Japan by Daniel Gallant 

Wayfindr: Empowering Vision Impaired People to Navigate the World Independently by Tiernan Kenny

Video Articles:

CollAction: CrowdACTING Innovation

Buildx: Democratizing Housing Production

Worker Owned Apps: Empowering Workers to Cooperate

Power of Language: Alternative Digital Application Access

Saga: Disrupting Input Devices to access the Knowledge

Mouse4all: Alternative Input Devices to Access the Knowledge

Mirrorable: Learning while Observing Innovation

Bincome: Alternative Currency

For more information about the European Social Innovation Competition including the recipients of the 2017 awards please visit:



Según la publicación “Claves de la Innovación Social en América Latina” de la CEPAL en 2008, (Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe), “Las innovaciones sólo tienen sentido si se difunden y se ponen al servicio de otras personas en todos los países de la región. Si las experiencias analizadas se toman como modelos de acciones concretas de política pública, se convertirán en un motor capaz de reducir las inequidades y aumentar la cohesión social de toda la región”1

Es justamente en este sentido que la misión del Social Innovations Journal, de servir de plataforma para darle visibilidad a las innovaciones sociales de un ecosistema regional, cobra especial importancia. 

Esta edición se enfocará en mostrar lo que está sucediendo en Chile y Argentina. 

De ninguna manera intentamos dar una receta única, pues es esencial tener en cuenta las características económicas, políticas y sociales de cada país. Sin embargo, el desarrollo de innovaciones sociales tiene características comunes tales como las oposiciones y reticencias al cambio y la necesidad de construir alianzas y de lidiar con obstáculos endógenos y exógenos para su puesta en marcha. Con lo cual, es posible que el análisis y comprensión de la manera cómo han abordado estos aspectos, sirva de ejemplo y sirva de detonador para encontrar puntos comunes adaptables a las situaciones específicas de otros países. 

Primero se mostrará un panorama general de América Latina y su manera de abordar el tema de la innovación social para continuar luego con las especificidades de la Innovación Social en Chile y Argentina y, finalmente, se hará una introducción de los artículos que se presentan en esta edición. 

Tomando como punto de partida el marco general de América Latina, se puede decir que la experiencia de la región en diseño e implementación de políticas de innovación comenzó en la década de los cincuenta. En varios países de América Latina se crearon entidades públicas orientadas a la promoción del desarrollo científico y la investigación. Por ejemplo, en 1958, Argentina crea el Consejo Nacional de Investigación y Técnicas, CONICET y en 1967 Chile crea la Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica CONICYT. En esa época, se tenía una visión lineal de la innovación. Es decir, el proceso comenzaba con la investigación científica básica para el desarrollo de nuevos productos y, luego, se enfocaban en su comercialización. En la década de los ochenta y principios de los noventa, siguiendo los principios del Consenso de Washington, el Estado identifica las necesidades del mercado y de acuerdo con ellas, ajusta sus políticas públicas para que el sector privado busque las soluciones a dichas necesidades. 

Hoy, el proceso involucra no sólo al sector productivo, sino también a las universidades, los centros de investigación y el sector público como participantes activos en todo el proceso de innovación. No obstante, según la CEPAL, esa articulación de actores no se ha podido establecer de manera consistente en América Latina ya que carecen de espacios de diálogo para crear una sinergia de objetivos y posibilidades de acción conjunta. Adicionalmente, la mayoría de los países de la región carece de mecanismos estatales que permitan alimentar el proceso de innovación.  

Los estudios de la CEPAL que han comparado los resultados en materia de Conocimiento, Tecnología e Investigación (CTI) de la región, con los países más desarrollados, muestran diferencias sustanciales que se han ido acrecentando con el tiempo. El bajo nivel de inversión en actividades de innovación y su escaso dinamismo han sido una constante en las economías de América Latina.2 

Si bien la región presenta un alto nivel de heterogeneidad respecto a su compromiso con la CTI, esto ha quedado más en el discurso que en acciones concretas. Enfocar esfuerzos en CTI conduciría a estos países a nuevos espacios para reforzar su competitividad con base en el conocimiento, la innovación y el desarrollo de nuevas tecnologías, equipos para generar cambios estructurales que diversifiquen la productividad y se logre una competitividad auténtica, sostenible, inclusiva y de largo plazo.3

Existe, por otro lado, el tema de la innovación social, asociada específicamente a la búsqueda de soluciones para resolver problemas que no están adecuadamente cubiertos por el mercado o por el sector público. En este sentido, la innovación social busca transformar positivamente la vida de un grupo o comunidad articulando a actores que no suelen trabajar juntos y está generando un cambio cultural importante. Los directamente afectados, la sociedad civil, se han ido empoderando, asumiendo como propia la responsabilidad de ser los artífices de su destino. Es decir, están impulsando cambios desde lo local que necesariamente tendrán un impacto en las decisiones del Estado a través de políticas públicas que reflejen estos cambios. 

Esto implica un análisis de la manera como se está abordando el tema de la innovación en el terreno de la ciencia y la tecnología y en el terreno social, como una subdivisión, que integrará el conocimiento científico con el conocimiento local y la experiencia concreta de sus actores en lo local. 


Con el abandono, a finales del 2001, del régimen de paridad cambiaria fija, el país pasó de una situación social con tasas de pobreza superiores al 50% de la población y problemas de desempleo y subempleo de un tercio de la población4, a una última década caracterizada por un proceso económico de fuerte crecimiento y de significativo mejoramiento social. 

Según el Banco Mundial “Argentina está en un proceso de transformación económica que promueve un desarrollo económico sostenible con inclusión social e inserción en la economía global y tuvo el mejor desempeño en la región en reducir la pobreza e impulsar la prosperidad compartida entre 2004 y 2008”.5

Las elecciones presidenciales de finales de 2015 condujeron a un cambio significativo en la política económica argentina. Los primeros indicios de la tendencia hacia la innovación social se encuentran tras las iniciativas de emprendedores locales (las start-up sociales) y de laboratorios de innovación ciudadana como el de la ciudad de Buenos Aires.6

Lo que muestran las estadísticas es que al menos 30% de los proyectos que están siendo incubados en Argentina tienen un fuerte componente de innovación social y la tendencia permite esperar que esta proporción siga creciendo en el futuro. Del mismo modo, muchos gobiernos provinciales y municipales (incluyendo también a algunas empresas de gran escala) pondrán en marcha sus propios “laboratorios de innovación” con un marcado sello social y como una forma de responder a problemas complejos.7 

El énfasis en políticas de más largo plazo, de carácter sistémico y con una más clara orientación estratégica como asimismo en la búsqueda de una mayor integración y coordinación se consolidó a partir del 2007 con la creación del Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva dando lugar a un proceso de jerarquización y mayor institucionalización de la política de CTI. 

Es importante resaltar que Argentina cuenta con un Plan Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación encaminado a configurar el país del 2020 con mejores indicadores de calidad de vida, competitividad productiva, inclusión social y sostenibilidad ambiental. Con el fin de afianzar y fortalecer esas políticas de manera sostenible, se ha creado este Plan que utiliza como principales herramientas la innovación y el conocimiento bajo una estrategia de focalización, que de por sí constituye un cambio frente a las estrategias tradicionales. 

La estrategia de focalización busca dirigir esfuerzos hacia la producción de impactos significativos en sectores sociales y productivos de Argentina a través del apoyo de la ciencia, la tecnología y la innovación. 

El objetivo subyacente es el de promover una dinámica de interacción entre las instituciones de generación de conocimientos y los potenciales beneficiarios de los avances científicos y tecnológicos. 

Esta estrategia se inspira en la experiencia que ha desarrollado el Ministerio en los últimos años con la implementación de los Fondos Sectoriales. Se trata del diseño de un modelo de gestión novedoso con el que se busca impulsar la innovación desde las etapas iniciales de asociación entre actores heterogéneos con intereses en común, pasando por la evaluación de factibilidad hasta la realización concreta de la innovación buscada. 

El Plan expone los principales ejes de las políticas a implementar y reforzar con el fin de responder adecuadamente al desafío de construir un país que ofrezca igualdad de oportunidades para todos. 

La metodología propuesta constituye de por si una innovación pues contempla unas Mesas de Implementación en donde se reúnen funcionarios del Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología con funcionarios de otras jurisdicciones, actores del sector privado, ONG, científicos, académicos, para dialogar y buscar consensos sobre el país que desean. De estos diálogos resultarán unos Planes Operativos que ejecutarán los fondos, realizando además un seguimiento y evaluación de las acciones realizadas. 

El objetivo general del Plan es “Impulsar la innovación productiva, inclusiva y sustentable sobre la base de la expansión, el avance y el aprovechamiento pleno de las capacidades científico-tecnológicas nacionales, incrementando así la competitividad de la economía, mejorando la calidad de vida de la población en un marco de desarrollo sostenible”.8 

El desafío para Argentina será, entonces, la articulación y coordinación de esfuerzos y la generación de un entorno favorable con un marco regulatorio coherente que permita asumir la innovación como estrategia competitiva de desarrollo.  


Chile es la economía más competitiva y con mejor ambiente para hacer negocios en América Latina.

Para el período 2000-2014 la economía chilena creció un promedio de 4,3% en términos reales (información proporcionada por el Banco Central de Chile). 

El país ha logrado generar un ambiente propicio para el crecimiento y la atracción de inversiones, basado en apertura comercial, instituciones robustas, estabilidad macroeconómica, tanto fiscal como monetaria y un profundo mercado financiero. 

Según el Plan de Innovación de Chile 2014-2018, el país debe transitar desde un crecimiento económico sustentado por acumulación de factores productivos, con énfasis en capital físico sobre capital humano, hacia una economía del conocimiento basada en la innovación para aumentar la eficiencia y la productividad.9 

Aunque Chile todavía está lejos en cuanto a la cantidad de recursos que dedica a Investigación y Desarrollo sobre el PIB, la calidad y productividad de la investigación que se realiza en el país es buena y creciente. El problema es que la investigación que se realiza en las universidades se relaciona en muy baja proporción con los sectores productivos del país. Lo que ocasiona que, por un lado, las áreas donde se realiza la investigación no están alineadas con la realidad productiva del país, y, por otro lado, dichos esfuerzos no transforman conocimiento en innovación. 

Desde otra perspectiva, está el rol del Estado en el desarrollo de la innovación en Chile. Éste debe ayudar a reducir las fallas del mercado que existen en el proceso innovador, cofinanciando actividades riesgosas tecnológicamente con el sector privado, financiando ciencia y empujando un cambio cultural hacia el emprendimiento, la innovación y el uso de la ciencia como herramienta para resolver problemas en todos los sectores. Esto requiere un diálogo permanente con el sector privado. 

Según Cristián Figueroa, Director de Responsabilidad Pública e Innovación Social de la UDD opina que “la innovación social está en un proceso de identificar lo que existe y luego ver cómo transformarlo en algo más innovador, buscando fortalecer su impacto social”.10

Según José Manuel Moller, Fundador de Algramo “cuesta encontrar caso de éxito porque la madurez de un negocio que está tratando de equilibrar lo económico con lo social y medioambiental requiere de más tiempo, esfuerzo e inteligencia por parte de los emprendedores”.11 

Según Rocío Fonseca, directora ejecutiva de Start-Up Chile, el país es puntero en la materia a nivel latinoamericano, pero “muchas veces, el perfil del emprendedor es tan social que dejan de lado la visión de negocio, motivo por el cual no logran ser rentables ni escalar”.12

Frente a los desafíos presentados, el Plan de Innovación de Chile establece cuatro ejes de acción: 

A. Democratización de rutinas de innovación tanto en pequeñas como en medianas empresas, sector público y la sociedad. 

Este objetivo se realizará a través de tres líneas de acción: 

1. Fomento de Innovación Empresarial mediante dos figuras:  a). Programa de Innovación Tecnológica Empresarial:  a través del CORFO, Corporación de Fomento de la Producción, agencia del Gobierno de Chile, orientada a fomentar la innovación en las empresas nacionales a través del cofinanciamiento de proyectos que signifiquen desarrollo de nuevos bienes y servicios y/o procesos o su mejora significativa que les permitan aumentar fuertemente su competitividad y/o productividad en el mercado en el que compiten.  b). Centros de Extensionismo Tecnológico: Proporcionarán a las pymes una oferta adecuada y efectiva de servicios tecnológicos especializados, asistencia técnica para una adecuada absorción tecnológica, servicios de mejoramiento de su capacidad receptora de tecnologías y fortalecimiento de su capacidad para innovar. 

2. Innovación para Crecimiento Inclusivo:

La innovación ya no está centrada únicamente en el aumento de la productividad sino también en la resolución de desafíos sociales y públicos. Para abordar esto se están desarrollando: a). Programa de Innovación Social: Busca impulsar iniciativas que generen un alto impacto social, laboral, medioambiental, entre otros, donde el objetivo principal es la creación de valor social. b). Política de Innovación Pública: Orientada a desarrollar rutinas y cultura de innovación dentro del Estado y sus instituciones, con el fin de mejorar continuamente su relación con los ciudadanos y su funcionamiento. Para ello se crea el Comité de Innovación en el Sector Público que implementará el primer GobLab Latinoamérica. 

3. Ecosistema y Cultura de Emprendimiento e Innovación. 

Para instalar y consolidar una cultura de innovación y emprendimiento se trabajará en varias direcciones: 

a). Extensión de programas de apoyo al emprendimiento de base: Instalación de emprendedores en las regiones a través de la expansión de Start-Up Chile para generar un cambio cultural, compartir experiencias y transmitir conocimientos. También está prevista la creación de infraestructura física como espacios de co-work y hub globales a nivel regional para establecer nodos de intercambio de información y de intercambio de ideas y el aumento de los fondos de capital semilla para incrementar la creación de nuevas empresas. b). Apoyo al escalamiento: Construyendo plataformas para la generación y financiamiento de las ideas. 

B. Contribuir a diversificar la matriz productiva 

En otras palabras, abrir espacios a nuevas áreas y potencializar sectores competitivos mediante una política industrial activa y dinámica que permita diversificar la economía, incentivar la innovación y la productividad general. A través de: a). Programas estratégicos de especialización inteligente: mediante trabajo articulado entre el sector público y privado. b). Creación de fondo de inversiones estratégicas: Entrega de recursos para fomentar la competitividad de sectores de alto potencial de crecimiento mediante inversión pública o mecanismos de inversión conjunta con el sector privado.  c). Fortalecimiento de la Oficina de Enlace Industrial: Al interior del Ministerio de Economía. 

C. Incrementar la producción de nuevo conocimiento (Investigación y Desarrollo) y la conexión de las empresas con la producción de dicho conocimiento, vía transferencia tecnológica. Mediante dos herramientas: 1) Incremento del financiamiento público a la Investigación y Desarrollo aplicada y 2). Plan Nacional para transferencia tecnológica y de conocimiento: para articular el trabajo conjunto de las agencias gubernamentales en el diseño y mejoramiento de los programas actuales con sistema de monitoreo. 

D. Fortalecer la institucionalidad de tal manera que se pueda potencializar el impacto de la acción pública, así como la capacidad de hacer seguimiento y evaluación de los recursos que se destinen a esta área. 

En los últimos años se ha avanzado en la construcción de una institucionalidad para nuestro Sistema Nacional de Innovación. Ejemplo de ello es la creación del Consejo Nacional de Innovación para el Desarrollo con un nuevo estatus legal que le permite ser independiente financiera y políticamente del gobierno de turno. y el Comité de Ministros de la Innovación para la Competitividad. Y finalmente la creación de una Plataforma de Información del Sistema Nacional de Innovación. Que proporcione datos, indicadores e información necesaria para la toma de decisiones y la realización de estudios y evaluaciones a todos los programas e instrumentos del sistema. 

El Plan tiene todos los elementos necesarios para impulsar positivamente el desarrollo de la innovación social en Chile, el tiempo dirá si fue lo suficientemente efectivo en lograr los objetivos propuestos. 


Entre los artículos que representan la innovación social tanto en Chile como en Argentina, encontraremos temas como:

El Laboratorio de Innovación Social de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, el cual se crea como un espacio de encuentro, donde surgen soluciones innovadoras para problemáticas sociales y se fortalece el impacto social de iniciativas existentes. El artículo destaca especialmente tres proyectos: El LabJóvenes (16-24 años), el Impactec, concurso que incentiva el desarrollo de starts-up tecnológicas con impacto social y proyectos de inclusión social. 

La labor desarrollada por la Fundación Mi Parque, en Chile, centrada en la construcción de áreas verdes involucrando directamente a la comunidad en el diseño, la construcción y protección de dichas zonas. La apropiación de estos espacios verdes por parte de la comunidad ha mostrado efectos positivos en su calidad de vida y en el cuidado y preservación de estos espacios. 

Un grupo pluridisciplinario en Argentina muestra la enfermedad de Chagas desde una perspectiva integral, creativa, innovadora y caleidoscópica con el fin de abordar conjuntamente su dimensión biomédica, sociocultural, epidemiológica y política desde múltiples disciplinas, escenarios y lenguajes. 

El desafío socioambiental de acceso a recursos hídricos y contención del avance de la desertificación que enfrentan las comunidades de la región de Coquimbo en Chile ha llevado a este equipo a trabajar de manera conjunta con estas comunidades, intercambiando conocimientos y empoderándolas para encontrar soluciones para su desarrollo sostenible.  

A través de las Tiendas Solidarias, la Corporación de Ayuda a Niños Quemados, COANIQUEM, logra ayudar al financiamiento del tratamiento de niños y jóvenes con quemaduras y, adicionalmente, promueve la creación de una comunidad solidaria que participa benévolamente en estas tiendas que permiten, a su vez, que personas de escasos recursos accedan a bienes de primera necesidad a precios muy bajos. 

La propuesta innovadora de reconocimiento de los Pueblos Originarios de Argentina como actores de derecho público de carácter no estatal, respetando su derecho a la autodeterminación, crearía el marco jurídico necesario para lograr su inclusión social en la realidad nacional argentina y los empoderaría para constituirse en los artífices de su propio destino de manera sostenible. 

El proyecto Jardín de Puertas Abiertas, una Escuela Viva, aborda el tema de la educación desde un enfoque diferente, utilizando diferentes lenguajes artísticos para crear puentes de aprendizaje que estimulen la creatividad y el entusiasmo, produciendo así un impacto social en todo el núcleo familiar de estudiantes y profesores. 

La sociedad Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos S.A. viene desarrollando acciones innovadoras para afrontar el desafío de la accesibilidad a los servicios de agua potable y saneamiento de los barrios populares de Buenos Aires. 

La organización de la sociedad civil, Crisol Proyectos Sociales ha dedicado más de veinte años al trabajo comunitario y, particularmente, de la sistematización de 23 proyectos implementados en un barrio popular, en la zona sur de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires entre los años 2007 y 2015. Todos ellos comparten el objetivo de contribuir a mejorar las condiciones de vida de la población y mitigar los efectos de la exclusión y la inequidad social. 


La innovación surge del cruce entre diferentes procesos, donde la teoría se encuentra con la práctica, donde los innovadores intercambian su experiencia, los patrocinadores financian y arriesgan, las organizaciones públicas y privadas cooperan, el conocimiento científico se completa con el tradicional que proviene de la propia experiencia y la necesidad práctica se encuentra con la oferta de conocimiento. La clave es la sinergia.13 Espacios de vinculación academia, estado, empresa, sociedad civil se tornan más relevantes para poder avanzar por sendas de desarrollo inclusivo y sostenible. 

En la mayor parte de los países latinoamericanos, el Estado local se limita a prestar servicios públicos, que en el proceso de descentralización político-administrativa le han sido transferidos muchas veces sin los recursos necesarios para gestionarlos adecuadamente. Se requieren acciones en dos frentes: A nivel local, es fundamental fortalecer a los gobiernos locales para que tengan la capacidad de liderar procesos de desarrollo económico y social. A nivel nacional, el Estado debe crear la infraestructura y el marco regulatorio adecuados para establecer condiciones equitativas para dicho desarrollo económico y social.  

El análisis de la situación en estos países confirma la importancia de la innovación social y su rol en el logro del desarrollo de la región. Se requiere un tejido mixto, pluridisciplinario, coordinado, con capacidad resolutiva y que se convierta en el generador de experiencias innovadoras. Adicionalmente, la experiencia muestra la necesidad, por un lado, de un líder, de una persona inspiradora y apasionada que canalice la energía de la colectividad y enfoque sus capacidades para guiar y convertir las ideas en acciones; y, por otro lado, de una comunidad solidaria y comprometida con la búsqueda de soluciones sostenibles que les permita recuperar su dignidad. 

Las bases están dadas y el camino, aunque difícil, está trazado.  


“La innovación social: la próxima tendencia en innovación” Pablo Piccoletto 22 mayo 2015

“América Latina: La falta de Innovación dificulta la creación de empleos de calidad. Diciembre 5, 2013

Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

Plan Nacional de Innovación Chile 2014 – 2018. División de Innovación, Ministerio de Economía, Fomento y Turismo. Santiago diciembre 2015.

“Claves de la Innovación Social en América Latina y el Caribe”. Rodríguez Herrera, Adolfo; Alvarado Ugarte, Hernán. CEPAL Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe. Libros de la CEPAL. Santiago, Noviembre 2008. 

“Nuevas Instituciones para la Innovación: Prácticas y Experiencias en América Latina”. Gonzalo Rivas, Sebastián Rovira Editores. CEPAL-NACIONES UNIDAS Santiago 2014.

“Estudio Económico de América Latina y el Caribe 2017. La dinámica del ciclo económico actual y los desafíos de política para dinamizar la inversión y el crecimiento”. CEPAL NACIONES UNIDAS. Santiago 2017. 

“Argentina Innovadora 2020: Plan Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación. Lineamientos Estratégicos 2012-2015”. Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva. Secretaría de Planeamiento y Políticas. Buenos Aires. 


1Claves de la Innovación Social en América Latina y el Caribe. CEPAL .2008. 


3Nuevas Instituciones para la Innovación. Prácticas y Experiencias en América Latina. CEPAL. 2014 

4Argentina innovadora Plan 2020

5Banco Mundial 

6La Innovación social: La próxima tendencia en innovación. Pablo Picoletto.  


8Argentina Innovadora Plan 2020

9Plan de innovación de Chile 

10Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

11Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

12Instituto de innovación social UDD Chile Fernanda Gómez 2 noviembre 2017.

13Claves de la innovación social en América Latina. CEPAL. 2008


The 2010 Institute of Medicine’s report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, offers a blue print for transforming health care through changes in nursing education, practice, and leadership. With 2020 rapidly approaching, the lessons from that landmark report continue to inform how nurses can drive efforts to improve health and health care. Today, 51 state Action Coalitions are working to implement the Future of Nursing recommendations as part of the Campaign for Action, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, AARP, and the AARP Foundation.

As the largest segment of the health care workforce, and the providers with the most direct connection to patients and their families, nurses are well positioned to identify innovative solutions to problems. Nurses often bridge the divide between the system and the person, and work strategically with partners to implement and scale solutions in profound ways. Across the country, nurses are building a Culture of Health, by supporting positive patient experiences through a health care system that is easy to access and navigate; and by ensuring patient needs are met and patients are being heard, respected, and can contribute to decisions related to their own care. 

At its core, the Pennsylvania Action Coalition (PA-AC) embraces innovation, because innovation is key to change. While definitions of innovation vary, all descriptions reflect the power of thinking differently -- whether it is a new product or idea or a different application or understanding of an existing idea -- and the potential impact of systems change. 

The articles in this edition demonstrate how nurses are not only developing innovative ideas but also implementing these ideas creatively, effectively, and in collaboration with cross-sector and interprofessional partners. 

The Pennsylvania Action Coalition

The PA-AC works with diverse stakeholders across sectors and disciplines and recognizes that the strength of a coalition comes as much from our differences as from our aligned goals. The two organizations leading the PA-AC appear quite different at first glance. Masimo is an international corporation that develops non-invasive technological solutions throughout the health care continuum from acute care through first responders and EMS settings. While, the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium (NNCC), a nonprofit affiliate of Public Health Management Corporation, advances nurse-led models of care to address health and wellbeing, typically in community-based settings. Yet, the organizations share a commitment to leveraging the power of nursing. As the Chief Nursing Executive at Masimo, Mike Becker’s role underlines the fact that technology will not improve care without insight and buy-in from the nurses charged with delivering that care. Meanwhile, programming at NNCC ranges from environmental health home visiting to value-based payment reform to federally-qualified health centers that serve public housing residents. With a public health focus, NNCC pushes expectations for how nurses lead and redefine health care delivery, quality, and wellbeing. For example, the Nursing-Legal Partnership, a public health home visiting program, integrates legal services attorneys into the health care team of nurses and their families and also builds relationships with local community organizations to address systemic problems impacting the communities they serve. Masimo and NNCC are joined by 22 other PA-AC Advisory Board Member Organizations, each offering substantial contributions to efforts to increase access to high quality, safe health care. On the PA-AC’s various committees, nearly 100 volunteers contribute to a vision shared by hundreds of thousands throughout the state -- a healthier Pennsylvania. This edition’s leadership profile on Amy Ricords, MEd, BSN, RN-BC is one example among many of PA-AC champions with a passion for transforming health care.

The Future of Nursing Innovation

When assessing health care challenges in the United States, the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academies of Medicine) identified nursing as key to the solution. There are many reasons why nursing was highlighted: the enormity of the nursing workforce, the abundance of nursing-sensitivity patient outcome measures, the unrealized potential for nurses to inform policy decisions, and more. However, the most compelling reason stems in large part from the foundations of nursing -- the humanistic core of the nursing discipline, which places the people first and emphasizes caring in health care. The future of nursing innovation will benefit from person-based solutions to quality and safety challenges. 

In 2017, the PA-AC Coalition launched the inaugural Nursing Innovation Corps, through which interprofessional teams proposed innovative solutions to common health care problems facing the elderly. Winning teams shared ideas for better communicating fall risks through smart whiteboards and enhancing discharge education through a mobile game that tests understanding of medication instructions among patients and their caregivers. They also addressed the need to better support innovation and entrepreneurship by prioritizing interprofessional partnerships and recognizing that professional development is not only good for the professional and patients, but also impacts employers’ bottom lines. These types of programs are only beginning to receive the attention in nursing that they have in other disciplines. Some nursing schools are now offering majors and degrees in innovation, design thinking, and systems engineering. Other organizations like the IBC Foundation are investing in the nursing workforce of the future through evidence-based internships and mentorship.

Caring Across Disciplines

When we begin with the person, we may look differently at existing resources to meet important needs. At Fox Chase Cancer Center, innovation spawned efforts to better support family members and friends as caregivers. We also are now placing value on traditionally underappreciated skills stemming from emotional intelligence, as a priority across disciplines. At Robert Morris University, “standardized patients,” commonly employed for nursing simulations to develop interpersonal communication skills, are now being utilized to prepare teachers working on Individualized Education Plans and business executives cultivating strong workforce environments. Nurses also partner across disciplines and sectors to tackle seemingly impossible systemic challenges like homelessness and incarceration. Within this edition, nurses describe the creative partnerships taking place with partners including community health workers, prisons, and community members.

Changing Systems to Improve Quality and Safety

Many nursing innovations utilize technology, and we can expect technological advancements to continue to change how, and how well, health care is delivered. However, the theme that stands out across innovations, like the use of virtual reality to increase lay bystander CPR, wireless pulse oximetry monitoring for patients on opioids, and telemedicine intensive care units, is not the sophisticated technology, but rather the systems approach to quality improvement.

Looking ahead

In December 2017, the PA-AC made a formal commitment to the Patient Safety Movement Foundation and the mission to eliminate preventable deaths by 2020 (ox2020). Like many of our 2020 goals, we are motivated by a vision but will not be stopped by a deadline. The work laid out in The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report, by the Patient Safety Movement and in other health transformation initiatives, will continue past 2020. However, it is the spirit of innovation, and the commitment to transformation, that will ultimate improve health and health care in Pennsylvania and beyond.


The U.S. is in the throes of a period of intense discord over immigration policy. Yet, even as the federal government implements restrictive regulations and takes a hostile stance in regards to immigration, municipal governments and nonprofits in communities across the country continue to develop innovative and successful approaches to immigrant integration. For years, the lack of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level and inadequate policies toward immigrants by most state governments, have left city governments, nonprofits, and community groups to take the lead in supporting immigrant and refugee communities. Recent hardline anti-immigrant rhetoric, policy proposals, and actions by the Trump administration, including the recent announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, have escalated tensions between federal, state, and local governments regarding immigrant policies. These tensions have made it clear that we must look to the local level for leadership in protecting immigrants’ rights.

America’s cities have long been gateways for immigrant arrivals and many cities have developed innovative programs and rich networks of nonprofits and community groups to support immigrant and refugee communities. Many municipal governments recognize the numerous benefits that immigrants bring to their cities, including cultural diversity, population growth, and economic development. Yet, they also struggle to address the challenges associated with integrating diverse, low-income, and limited English proficient (LEP) populations.

This edition of the Social Innovations Journal examines successful models for delivering integration services to immigrant and refugee communities, supporting immigrant leadership development, and promoting pro-immigrant policies at the municipal level. Rather than take a sample of successful programs and policies from across the nation, we use a place-based approach that provides an in-depth examination of developments in one major U.S. city -- Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love has a longstanding tradition of serving as an immigrant gateway, and it has also experienced a recent upsurge in its immigrant population, which has inspired the creation of new groups and collaborations. Philadelphia’s experiences with immigrant integration hold useful lessons for both large cities and smaller municipalities across the country. 

The current tension over immigration policy will likely intensify in the months to come with protracted legal battles and continued confusion and fear among immigrant and refugee communities. In the face of hostile rhetoric and policies at the federal level, urban populations have taken strong stances in favor of supporting welcoming policies for immigrants and protecting their fundamental rights. Therefore, America’s cities will likely remain focal points on how to establish effective immigration policies now and in the foreseeable future. With the Social Innovation Journal’s expansion to other regions of the country, we hope that this collection of articles will not just inform leaders in other cities, but will inspire them to share their own contributions so that together we can continue to explore and promote the role of cities as change agents in immigration.

Philadelphia’s Growing Immigrant Population: A Snapshot

Like many cities across America, the City of Philadelphia has experienced rapid recent growth in its immigrant population. Philadelphia’s foreign-born population of immigrants and refugees has almost doubled over the past 25 years, increasing from 104,816 in 1990 to 197,563 in 2015. Philadelphia has long been a refugee resettlement site, and until Trump’s executive order halving the national ceiling for refugee arrivals, the city was receiving approximately 750 refugees per year. Foreign-born residents now constitute 12.7 percent of Philadelphia’s total population, up from 6.7 percent in 1990. Immigrant Philadelphians come from diverse backgrounds: 41 percent were born in Asia, 32 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 18 percent in Europe, and 9 percent in Africa.

Immigrants have made significant contributions to the city’s cultural, civic, and economic life. Immigrants have helped reverse decades of population decline and have boosted the economy -- expanding the workforce in key sectors, starting thousands of businesses in the Philadelphia metro area, and paying billions in taxes annually. Immigrants have revitalized declining commercial corridors and brought new vibrancy and dynamism into the city’s business and cultural life.

While the immigrant population performs well on certain measures of socioeconomic success (for example, 28 percent of the foreign-born in Philadelphia have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 25 percent of the native-born), immigrants generally confront greater challenges than native-born Americans in several indicators of socioeconomic wellbeing (Table 1).  

Table 1: Socioeconomic Indicators, Foreign-Born vs. Native-Born, Philadelphia, 2015

  Foreign-Born Native-Born

Less than High School Education
(population 25 years and older)

29% 18%
Annual Income below $25,000 (full-time,
year-round workers, population 16 years 
and older)
34% 18%
Below 200% of the Poverty Level 52% 48%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-15 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates

Aggregate data obscures stark racial and ethnic disparities and the vulnerabilities of specific immigrant populations, such as the undocumented, refugees, elderly, the limited English proficient, and those that fall within multiple of these categories. For example, 41 percent of Latinos and 27 percent of Asian families live below the federal poverty level in Philadelphia compared to 15 percent of White families. Approximately 10 percent of Philadelphians speak English “less than very well,” which national data shows makes them almost twice as likely to live in poverty than English proficient individuals. Philadelphia also has a rapidly growing undocumented population, currently estimated at 50,000 and constituting approximately 25 percent of the foreign-born population.

Nonprofit Service and Advocacy Landscape

Over the past two decades, Philadelphia has seen a significant increase in the number of nonprofit organizations and community groups providing services to and/or advocating on behalf of immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia. Over this time, many of the older and more established organizations have grown and expanded their range of services and new immigrant-led grassroots groups have emerged. Philadelphia now has a rich network of nonprofit and community organizations that serve the city’s diverse immigrant and refugee communities. Organizations active in this field include faith- and community-based service providers, grassroots social justice organizations, economic development organizations, advocacy groups, and organizations that fall under multiple categories. Services provided include: legal assistance, refugee resettlement, health care, social services, English Language Learner (ELL) classes, interpretation and translation, citizenship and civic engagement, community organizing, workforce development, and cultural programming. Despite the growth in the number of nonprofit organizations serving immigrant and refugee communities, major challenges remain. There continues to be a greater demand than availability of services in many areas, as well as significant service gaps. Many small nonprofits, particularly grassroots social justice organizations, struggle to maintain essential programming on tiny budgets.

Role of Municipal Government

Recognizing the growth of the immigrant population and the positive impact of immigrants on the city’s population and economy, Philadelphia city government has established a growing record of policy-making to support the needs of immigrant and refugee communities. Over the past 15 years, executive orders, city council resolutions, and a Philadelphia home rule charter amendment have introduced changes to benefit immigrants, including mandating language access services across city agencies, requiring non-inquiry of immigration status for city services, establishing a Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA), limiting immigration detainers, and cracking down on immigration services fraud. Other initiatives have celebrated the city’s diverse cultures and promoted citizenship among Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs). The City continues to work on implementation of language access and other immigrant-friendly policies across city departments. Institutionalization of best practices continues to be a challenging aspect of the City’s work. 

Mayor Jim Kenney has been a long-standing advocate and outspoken supporter of immigrant-friendly policies and has committed to strengthening the city’s efforts to support immigrant communities to attract newcomers. At the outset of his administration, his transition team developed a plan and set of priorities for OIA to focus on, including ensuring that city agencies meet language access requirements, the development of a year-round calendar of activities to celebrate Philadelphia’s diversity of cultures, promoting immigrant-owned small businesses and commercial corridors, facilitating immigrant inclusion by providing Municipal Identification Documents, and partnering with nonprofit organizations to assist eligible LPRs in becoming citizens.

Summary of Articles

The Social Innovations Journal Immigrant Edition consists of 16 curated articles that provide coverage of key local innovations in the field of immigration and refugee services and organizing in Philadelphia. The contributors are leaders representing a range of outstanding organizations in the field. In addition, an invited article by Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in New York, provides an overview of the coordinating role municipal offices of immigrant affairs can play in building collaborations across sectors, leveraging resources for large-scale initiatives, ensuring access to city services, and promoting pro-immigrant public policies. Together, this collection of articles covers some of the most critical aspects of the current debate on immigration that is being played out at the city level, including the need for services for diverse immigrant and refugee populations, creating an inclusive community, the role of public and private sectors, and needs and innovations within specific issue areas, such as economic and workforce development, health and wellbeing, education, civic engagement, and social justice. 


One key theme that cuts across many of the contributions is that collaboration has been a successful strategy used by nonprofits and local government to address complex issues within the immigrant and refugee community. Collaboration, particularly across sectors, enables participating organizations to use multi-prong approaches to address complex social challenges. Collaborative projects provide an opportunity for organizations to build relationships, increase efficiency, scale up, and maximize impact -- and therefore, have proven attractive to local and national funders. Two articles place particular emphasis on this theme:

  • In PA is Ready!: Pennsylvania Funders and Nonprofits Collaborate in New Way to Build Immigrant Legal Assistance, Leadership and Organizing Capacity, Sundrop Carter and Ana Lisa Yoder describe the development and structure of the PA is Ready! collective impact project, a unique, flexible model that has brought funders, legal service providers, and grassroots organizations in Pennsylvania together to build immigrant legal assistance, leadership and organizing capacity. The model includes a number of innovations, most notably placing primary responsibility for decision-making regarding allocation of resources in the hands of community partners rather than funders, thereby challenging traditional power dynamics. 
  • Naomi Burrows & Juliane Ramic’s article, Defining the Community Integration Model of Refugee Resettlement, explains how the Nationalities Service Center (NSC) has cultivated creative partnerships with a range of local organizations to develop refugee health clinics, community gardens, legal clinics, and other core components of its successful refugee resettlement program. The partnerships have enabled NSC to dramatically increase the number of refugees the organization resettles, expand its networks of support for refugees and engage local communities in learning about and supporting refugees. 

Role of Municipal Government

Just as collaboration among nonprofit organizations has been a key to success, so too has collaboration between nonprofits and city government. Two articles in particular illustrate the central role of municipal government in addressing immigrant communities’ needs:

  • At a time when local policy is so important, Miriam Enriquez and Vanessa Stine’s article, City Legislation to Combat Immigration Services Fraud, describes the innovative collaboration between the City of Philadelphia and Friends of Farmworkers to develop, pass, and implement local legislation to protect consumers from immigration services fraud.  
  • Nisha Agarwal’s guest article, New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs – An Innovative Partner for Immigrants at the Local Level and Beyond, shows how the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) is setting a national standard for how city government can leverage their role to build expansive and innovative initiatives to support immigrant populations. Through effective partnerships with the nonprofit, private, and philanthropic sectors, MOIA’s network of programs include: IDNYC, New York City’s landmark municipal identification card program; ActionNYC, a program to provide free and confidential legal screenings and immigration services to low-income immigrants; and Cities for Action, a national collaboration among Mayors to advocate for federal immigration reform and other policies that protect immigrant residents. MOIA partners effectively with organizations New Yorkers already know and trust to ensure programming is easily accessible and community-based. 

Health and Wellbeing

Turning to specific issue areas, it is not surprising given Philadelphia’s robust network of academic hospitals and other medical providers, that the city has a well-developed network of programs to support the health and wellbeing of immigrant and refugee communities. Nonprofits and community-based organizations have developed effective short- and long-term partnerships with medical providers to address the needs of vulnerable immigrant populations including undocumented immigrants and unaccompanied minors, refugees, and victims of domestic violence. The following articles describe remarkable work in this area: 

  • In Puentes de Salud: A Clinic that Bridges, Curates, and Empowers, Bhakthi Sahgal describes how a small volunteer health clinic started by physicians has grown to serve 6,500 patients per year and play a significant role in improving health outcomes for low-income, uninsured Latino communities in Philadelphia. Puentes harnesses the collective power of volunteers, including medical residents and students, nurse practitioners, “promotoras”, physicians, and others. Over time, to better address the complex social determinants of health, Puentes has broadened its programming to include after-school and cultural enrichment programs, ESL and GED classes, yoga, parenting, and health workshops, and Know Your Rights sessions.  
  • Amy Jones, Christa Loffelman, and Oni Richards-Waritay’s Utilizing Community Strengths and Innovation to Implement Community-Based Models of Care describes SEAMAAC and African Family Health Organization’s shared culturally-informed and community-based approach to delivering health and social services to marginalized African and Asian immigrant and refugee communities in Philadelphia. Their organizational model is based on effective partnerships with, and mobilization of trusted community leaders.
  • Access to culturally competent and linguistically appropriate behavioral health services has been a long-standing shortcoming in health care for immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia. In La Puerta Abierta: An “Open Door” Approach to Supporting Immigrant Youth and Families’ Emotional Well-being, Cathi Tillman explains the rationale and impact of La Puerta Abierta’s holistic model, which is built around a caring community of therapists, peer support networks, and partner organizations to support youth and families who have experienced profound trauma. At the heart of the model is the belief that affected youth bring natural resilience and strengths to the healing process and can be empowered to support others from their communities.
  • In Maternity Care Coalition: Meeting the Needs of Changing Communities, Sara Jann describes how a mainstream service provider has maintained its commitment to serving the region’s most vulnerable communities, successfully adapting to address the needs of pregnant immigrant women and their families by hiring bilingual/bicultural staff from their respective communities, partnering with community-based organizations, and building strong advocate-family relationships.

Economic Development

As noted above, immigrants have made major contributions to Philadelphia’s economic revitalization, and two articles in particular illustrate the role that local nonprofits have played in promoting economic development in immigrant communities:

  • In the article Passport to Progress: Recreating Career Pathways for Immigrant Professionals, Nicole Pumphrey and Jennifer Ginsberg explain how the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians developed its successful International Professionals Program (IPP), which integrates highly skilled immigrant professionals into the American workforce. The Welcoming Center recognizes that a large pool of highly skilled immigrants in Pennsylvania are unable to make the most of their education and experience due to difficulties integrating into the American workforce. Relying on a combination of technical training, job readiness workshops, peer-to-peer support and relationship building, and corporate engagement opportunities focused on particular industries, the IPP has proven highly effective at helping immigrants re-launch careers and realize their full potential.
  • In Undocumented Immigrants are Worthy Candidates for Capital Investments, Will Gonzalez and Luis Mora focus on how Ceiba (a coalition of community based organizations focused on asset building services) and FINANTA (a Community Development Financial Institution) have collaborated to provide financial services to undocumented immigrant families who are underserved by mainstream financial institutions. While Ceiba focuses primarily on financial counseling and free income tax filing services, and FINANTA on micro lending and enhanced lending circles, the two organizations collaborate by referring clients to one another and assuring that their services are integrated in a way that maximizes asset building opportunities for their programs’ participants.


Until recently, outside of the youth organizing work of groups such as Asian Americans United and JUNTOS, there have been relatively few immigrant-focused education projects. However, this is changing as local nonprofits work to address the educational needs of immigrant students and ease their fears in the current hostile, divisive climate:

  • In Public School/Community Collaborations that Foster Immigrant and Refugee Inclusion, Judith Bernstein-Baker, Valeri Harteg, Maria Sotomayor-Giacomucci, and Elizabeth Yaeger, describe three promising school-based approaches to creating a welcoming and safe environment for immigrant students and their parents. These include: partnering with schools to provide Know Your Rights sessions and distribute “Welcoming Schools” Toolkits to families, educators and administrators; providing on-site “Immigration 101” legal education for School District staff; and developing after-school ELL programs tailored to the needs of newly arrived refugees and immigrants.

Social Justice & Civic Engagement

Local organizations have also had great success in developing innovative approaches to enhance civic engagement and organizing for social justice in Philadelphia’s immigrant communities, as demonstrated particularly in two articles:

  • In Faith in Action: Immigrants, Refugees and Allies Pursue a Holistic Vision for Community-Initiated Education, Organizing & Accompaniment, Bethany Welch, Atianah Thomas, and Andrea Rusli, describe the Aquinas Center’s unique, multi-cultural, approach to education and organizing among South Philadelphia’s immigrant communities. Firmly grounded in a culture of mutuality -- in which engagements must be “bi-directional” by supporting and empowering the community -- the Aquinas Center provides an impressive array of educational and service activities alongside advocacy and organizing projects, such as a new Community ID program. 
  • Ray Murphy’s Increasing Civic Engagement Among Immigrant Communities to Create A Powerful New Voting Bloc, describes a new collaborative effort to engage Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters in Philadelphia by mobilizing trusted messengers from community-based organizations serving the AAPI community. Through conversations about issues and legislation that impact AAPI communities and civics lessons, and with technical assistance, data and technology tools and coordination support from Pennsylvania Voice, five organizations are making an impact by registering and turning out tens of thousands of AAPI voters. 

Leadership Profiles

Finally, the Immigrant Edition concludes with profiles of three long-standing and prominent Philadelphia immigration rights leaders and advocates:

  • Michael Matza profiles Blanca Pacheco, Assistant Director of the New Sanctuary Movement, whose connection with her own migration story helps her to lead local communities as a passionate and empathetic organizer for the rights of Philadelphia’s undocumented communities.
  • Judith Bernstein Baker profiles long-time education organizer and now City Councilwoman, Helen Gym, a fiercely outspoken advocate for the rights of immigrant communities and a model example of the type of proactive local political leader the immigrant rights movement needs now.
  • Meredith Chang profiles HIAS Pennsylvania’s former Executive Director, Judith Bernstein-Baker, who through her energy, commitment, and collaboration with multiple partners, has built an outstanding legacy of programs that improve the lives of the region’s most vulnerable immigrants, while also training the next generation of leaders in this field. 

Viewed as a whole, this rich collection of articles highlights a number of central themes including how nonprofits and community groups have sustained critical services in a disruptive policy and funding environment and how they are integrating partnership and collaborative work to address immigrant communities’ most pressing current needs. These are lessons that are sure to apply far beyond the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love, and our hope is that these shared stories will help to cultivate new ideas and inspire initiatives to support immigrants in communities across America.

Works Cited

Eichel, Larry and Thomas Ginsberg. 2017. “Unauthorized Immigrants Make Up a Quarter of Philadelphia’s Foreign Born.” The Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia Research Initiative, 15 February. Link

Zong, Jie and Jeanne Batalova. 2015. “The Limited English Proficient Population in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. Link.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2015. American Community Survey, 2011-2015, 5-year estimates.

Author Bio

Natasha Kelemen, MSS, is a nonprofit and foundation consultant with 20 years of experience in immigration, fundraising, program development, and organizational capacity building.