Global Immersion Accelerator – Guatemala 2019

From Vanderbilt to the World – Global Immersion Accelerator – Guatemala 2019

In December 2019, the Vanderbilt Accelerator Program, in partnership with the TFC, led an immersive experience in Antigua, Guatemala about Social Enterprise and Business in Emerging Markets. Partnering with the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt, this program highlighted the works of several organizations across Guatemala, looking at the ways that businesses can have impact on the communities in which they operate. Students had the opportunity to engage directly with several of these businesses and organizations across the social impact continuum, ranging from pure commercial enterprise to an operational charity.

Not only did these sessions give students the chance to see the way in which the social impact continuum is classified, but they then had the opportunity to meet with several of those actually working in the field. Site visits included companies such as Grønn, Ecofiltro, Antigua Cerveza Company, and De La Gente. While students spent mornings learning about business models and sustainable practices, their afternoons afforded them the opportunity to see how these theories and concepts were put into practice. As social enterprise and the spectrum of social impact can often be an ambiguous space, this fresh insight allowed students to see for themselves how workforce development translated to a bigger home for coffee farmers like Julio at De La Gente, and how improved access to clean water improved attendance rates at local, rural schools.

Julio Martinez from Pomona Impact also spoke to students about the impact investing scene in Guatemala – and how impact investing here and in much of the “so-called” developing world might differ from elsewhere in the developing world.

Jershem David Casasola Lemus, from the Kirzner Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City, gave a presentation to students about the ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Guatemala based on his research with Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM).

Learning from experts who are from this region and operate in this space, in addition to having the opportunity to learn about the market in Guatemala by engaging with a range of businesses, students were able to learn about concepts through case-studies in class and then directly apply them to real-world situations. William Takes, a second-year student at Vanderbilt, highlighted one of his take-aways from the experience: “One thing I learned that I can apply to my work is the model that those Guatemalan social enterprises use to function. In this manner, as we mentioned during the trip, the social enterprises successfully treat the poorer classes as consumers and a
llow a transaction to occur, instead of simply giving them a hand-out.”

Several other students particularly pointed out that the real-life applicability of the lessons learned in lecture greatly contributed to the immersive experience. Kayla Eason, a junior at Vanderbilt, pointed out that her greatest take-away is that: “I was able to apply the things we learned in the classroom directly to the sites we visited and the companies we were introduced to. This has helped me to better understand how to translate the classroom into the real world.”