Social Innovation in Paraguay

by Natalia Schoorl

Paraguay has a bustling social innovation scene and growing ecosystem of organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit, focused on addressing social needs and making a positive impact on their community. A portion of the Peery Foundation’s giving goes to nonprofit organizations working in Paraguay. In May, our team had the opportunity to visit some of our grantees, as well as a few other organizations, whose work we want to share:

  • Fundacion Paraguaya focuses on poverty elimination in Paraguay. Its Poverty Stoplight program measures poverty at the family unit level and across different indicators, highlighting the multidimensionality of poverty. Families assess their situation and create a plan to address the focus areas that they choose. Fundación Paraguaya mentors connect families with additional resources and information. As Fundacion Paraguaya staff shared with us, what’s important about this model is that people define their own path forward, and that the steps are actionable and specific to each family’s context.

  • Po Paraguay (Po) provides customized 3D printed prosthetics and addresses the economic and geographic barriers faced by many Paraguayans who need a prothesis. Po is able to receive measurements remotely and 3D print the prosthesis. We visited Po’s office where Production Manager, Mateo Acosta, explained that the organization works with each client to customize the prosthesis to meet each person’s needs. Mateo shared that Po intentionally uses bright colors each client chooses to suit their personality. The intention is not to mask or make invisible their difference, rather to wear their prostheis proudly.

  • Sonidos de la Tierra inspires and supports local Paraguayan towns to form self-sustaining musical ensembles for young people. “[Sonidos de la Tierra] promotes self-directed solutions, community solidarity, care for the environment, sustainable tourism, and cultural and artistic expression based on integrated human development,” according to the Skoll Foundation. We visited two classrooms to see the students practicing and learned that the music teacher was once a student in the program. While speaking with the parents group, one parent shared how transformative the program has been for her child beyond the music, helping with her child’s self-confidence and discipline in schoolwork.

B Corporations in Paraguay,  Courtesy of Sistema B Paraguay from their 2018 Annual Report

B Corporations in Paraguay, Courtesy of Sistema B Paraguay from their 2018 Annual Report

  • Sistema B Paraguay works with local companies receive their Empresa B certification (B Corporation). This means that such companies measure and take into account the social and environmental impact of their business and commit to maintaining certain standards of practice. The Paraguayan branch of Sistema B is part of a larger movement throughout South and Central America, and globally. According Sistema B Paraguay’s Annual Report, at the end of 2018, there are 50+ companies in their local Empresa B Community!

  • Koga Impact Lab is an incubator and accelerator for local entrepreneurs who aim to address social and environmental issues in Paraguay. Koga Director Marta Del Castillo, shared with us that Koga operates like a company (in fact they are a B Corporation!), yet it maintains a focus on social and environmental impact. Koga also hosts Gramo, a project to share inspirational stories and ideas for social change that do not draw attention from traditional media outlets. Read more about the story of Koga here.

  • El Granel, another B Corporation, is a cafe and meeting space for talks, workshops, classes, and community activities. The name “El Granel” means abundance. As the organization shares on its website, its hope is that with “inspirational spaces and proposals perhaps we can help release this abundance for the welfare of all.” 

We are inspired to see the different ways Paraguayan organizations are addressing social and environmental needs with creativity, energy, and above all, with community.