Balloon Latam: developing rural social enterprise

Emprediem & Balloon Latam //
Santiago //
July 14th 2017 //

Maria and Sebastian in their office in Santiago.

Maria and Sebastian welcomed me at their offices, and explained how Balloon Latam was founded through it’s relationship with Emprediem.

Emprediem is about democratizing entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Grupo Emprediem is a group of companies that work together to promote social innovation.

Founded in 2011, Emprediem believes in making entrepreneurship and social innovation accessible for all people, with the aim of creating a positive social impact in Latin America.

They call themselves the ‘connecting and management platform’ for social innovation, believing in the value of strengthening the networks and human connections that make great work happen. They develop programs to support entrepreneurs who want to solve the current problems of Latin America, through social enterprises. Some of their projects include:

Glocart – Un producto, una historia – working with entrepreneurs from different locations in Chile to strengthen the success of their businesses by improving their value proposition, design, and building stronger connections to larger organisations who procure, supply, or sell their products.

Mujeres ON – A program developed through a partnership with Entel and the National Service for Women and Gender Equality (SernamEG), to build a community of empowered and connected entreprenurial women.

Impact Mentors – A network of mentors that supports the sustainability and growth of social entrepreneurs. Aiming to reduce the failure rate of entrepreneurship in Chile, through a program of mentoring, training and networking.

Zomos – an program connecting young people to local tourist industry in Chile. Developed by Evoluzion, Actitud Lab and the regional government, with the support of Corfo. It develops student’s social-emotional skills, and gives them tools to develop and become involved with the tourism industry.

We see ourselves as agents of change, and we see relationships as a motor for making change possible

In 2012 they developed the enterprise Balloon Latam 

What // Balloon Latam supports and develops entrepreneurship in Latin American communities, building local capacity in social innovation tools and methodologies.

How // Young students or professionals (fellows) from all over the world pay to receive an intensive course in social innovation and entrepreneurship, they then work with rural entrepreneurs to transfer this knowledge. A Local Partner supports the program offering support, infrastructure, and facilities to develop the activities, and support the growth of the rural enterprises. Universities provide support to their students through grants, validation of credits or practice agreements to participate as fellows of the program and dissemination.

Why // The programme was established in response to the injustice experienced by rural communities across the world. Sebastián Salinas, the founder of BalloonChile, was convinced that the formula for combating poverty was through entrepreneurship. With Joshua Bicknell he spent time in Kenya in order to test their objective: to generate work in the communities through the teaching of methodologies and tools of entrepreneurship and innovation. By supporting some of the best best projects they saw there, after a few months they witnessed the growth of their enterprises, which was giving work to more Kenyans. It was after this experience that Sebastián and Joshua created Balloon, linking young entrepreneurs with entrepreneurs of scarce resources.

Maria went on to explain to me the relevance of this work here in Chile.

Latin America is one of the most unequal regions in the world. It has some of the lowest trust rates between people, and historically the rural communities have been marginalised and discriminated against

This is a team of incredibly passionate people who have grown Balloon from a startup to a £2m+ per annum social enterprise with 30+ staff. Annually Balloon now trains 600 volunteers to work with 1200 entrepreneurs across 7 countries and 3 continents.

So much of the narrative around social innovation is about the most privileged, trying to grow a business and be famous, not really trying to grow our society for the better

We talked about this, and the lack of evidence around the success of social innovation.

We are conscious of the risk of ‘lots of talk but no impact’. We are working on methods of how we evaluate the impact of our work

They are experimenting with methods of evaluation like A-B testing, comparing their work to other programmes, or places where no programme exists.

There business model is based on the income gained through the training programme, and the support of Corfo (Gobierno de Chile, dependiente del Ministerio de Economía, Fomento y Turismo) and other local partners and foundations, depending on the location of the work.

We think every enterprise should be a socially conscious one.

This has to be the future. 



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