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Issue 53 | Social Innovation and Technology in Latin America

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Dear Reader, 

In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: “Technology puts a name and a face -- a true identity -- to those that were invisible before and gives sound to voices that otherwise could not be heard.” 1 

Our questions, the catalyst for this edition, are how does technology give sound to voices in the social sector and does the advancement of technology accelerate the sharing of good ideas? These questions are personal to the Social Innovation Journal as we are driven by the belief that “the potential for good ideas to inspire more good ideas cannot be underestimated” and we work to capitalize on technology tools to share these ideas globally. 

To provide some context, digital technology continues to drive social innovation across the world through connectivity, new production systems, and new forms of employment. At the same time, digital technology also has rendered certain forms of labor expendable and has ushered in an era of uncertainty and volatility. This contrast has driven the debate around the benefits and harms of technological advancement over the past decade and will only grow louder in the coming decade. 

The Social Innovations Journal shines a spotlight on Latin America to explore this contrast. Latin America, a region of many contrasts itself, simultaneously deals with the negative impacts of a digitalized world, while innovating with digital technology to drive economic growth and greater connectivity. Latin America has seen a proliferation of technology labs, incubators, and university programs to meet the growing demand for digital products and the skilled workforce needed to deliver them. As this issue demonstrates, the region moves to keep pace with technological advancement and integrate into the global digital ecosystem. The social sector in Latin America, including universities and philanthropies, has produced models for the region to bring institutions into this new digital economy. To close the productivity gap between Latin America’s countries and the developed countries, it is required to incorporate technology in the productive process and articulate it with the development objectives of the countries. Inasmuch as there has been progress in this matter, the only way to accomplish it is by creating more fair and inclusive societies. For that, two essential aspects should be considered:  

On one hand, a cultural change through which the innovative way of thinking is promoted. And, on the other hand, collaboration between all sectors of society. 

We encourage you first to read the introductory and framing article titled “Social Innovation and Technology in Latin America” by María Alejandra Navas, Latin America Director that provides a deep dive into Latin American’s Technology ecosystem. 

At the Social Innovations Journal, we constantly have our eye on how the social sector will evolve and advance in the coming decade. Latin America serves as a window into the forces shaping our global economy and how our institutions are managing this change. We are excited to present this edition, in collaboration and coordination with our colleague, María Alejandra Navas, the Latin America Director of the Social Innovations Journal.


Nicholas Torres
Tine Hansen-Turton

1Patricia Morizio, Hufflington Post, February 2013


Social Innovation and Technology in Latin America

María Alejandra Navas, Latin America Director, Social Innovations Journal 

The article focuses on the analysis of opportunities and challenges arising from the digital economy in the region and how to close the productivity gap between Latin America’s countries and the developed countries in a new era based on technology.


INTERPRETA Foundation: The Use of Technology in Humanitarian Work

Bastián Díaz

The Foundation was born in 2016 in Santiago, Chili, as an answer to problems of the migrant communities in Chili, a growing issue in recent years. Moving away from assisting solutions such as delivering breakfasts or giving Spanish courses to Haitians, the Foundation prefers to position itself as an example of innovation by using tools of the corporate world and technology to solve problems related to immigration issues.   


Local Innovation Ecosystems to Strengthen Agroecology in Colombia: The Preliminary Case of LabCampesino of Tierra Libre’s Organization

Juan David Reina and Julián Ortiz

The use of digital technologies based on free hardware to contribute to the promotion of agroecology is in itself an innovative idea. However, it is the process of social owning of science, technology, and innovation in the rural sector and specially from the rural population, which creates disruptive conditions facing the traditional practices of technological transfer. In this sense, the article presents the progress and opportunities that are creating the Tierra Libre Project and, in particular, its initiative of LabCampesino that aims to strengthen a social innovation’s ecosystem and to promote agroecological practices in the rural population of the province of Sumapaz, Colombia. 


The Social Innovations Scientific Park

Paula Estefanía Castaño

The Minuto de Dios Organization (MDO), created by Father Rafael García-Herreros in the second half of the 20th century, has focused its efforts on service to society as the driving force of each of its entities; these, always seeking to respond to social problems in Colombia in various aspects such as health, housing, education, and others. And it is thanks to this approach, that in 2012 the work of the Social Innovation Science Park (SISP) begins as a commitment to social innovation responding to social needs. In this, we will take a closer look at how the SISP came about, what it is, how it works, and its impact.


MPZero: Sustainable, Affordable, and Clean Heating Available for Everyone

Ricardo Soto

Every winter, the air pollution caused by the combustion of biomass for residential heating is one of the biggest environmental problems suffered by the cities of South-Central Chile. Because the use of wood-burning stoves is the most affordable heating method, it remains today, despite its negative environmental implications, the most used tool by the population of Chile, despite causing serious health problems in the community, especially for children and the elderly. MPzero is a device for reducing emissions of fine particulate material, developed in Chile, which captures up to 97 percent of the emissions produced by this heating equipment, helping to keep the air clean and heating costs low for families who do not have access to heating methods that produce less pollutions. 


Leader’s Profile: Martha Leticia Silva

María Alejandra Navas

The leader of tomorrow is humble and authentic, curious and sensitive, flexible to learn new things and adapts easily to changes. They are someone who does not give up and they are versatile enough to consider differences as opportunities for growth.  

I met Martha Leticia Silva Flores during a social innovation event organized by CISAI, Center of High Impact Social Innovation, in Jalisco, Mexico last June. As the Center’s direct she made quite an impression when we met, and what I was able to learn about her in just a few days’ time convinced me to write about her as a leader of tomorrow.


Connecting Points: Intelligence on Field to Solve Social Problems

Iván Yza

Facing the search for the democratization of the media and the need to access new technological tools to allow for the solution of problems related to transparency and accountability, most of which we know little to nothing about their functioning or how to put them in operation, Virk came into existence in 2014. Virk had a clear objective: to create tools that will allow organizations to innovate in issues like the systematization and documentation of information in low-cost and user-friendly, simple ways. This enabled Virk to become a channel for innovations and avoid restrictions that most users have facing new technologies, and to develop the first tools for reports and documentations in Mexico and Latin America.