What was the nature of your project?

We travelled to Chimaltenango in Guatemala. This is located about an hour north of Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala and now a popular tourist destination. We are piloting a for-profit diabetes clinic that will generate funds for Wuqu’ Kawoq to continue its free healthcare model for the Mayan-speaking community in Guatemala. Language and socioeconomic status are huge barriers to receiving quality healthcare in the country, and Wuqu’ Kawoq is the first organization to directly tackle both. Our project will allow their organization to become self-sustaining and branch out to more communities in need.

What were some of your key learnings, both in the class and during the trip? 

We learned that culture is a critical consideration when planning global solutions. Our preliminary thoughts about the project were quickly reversed when we learned that certain payment models and perceptions of health simply didn’t exist within our target population. Even the best solution on paper is meaningless if it doesn’t fit into the cultural context of the group you are trying to serve. That being said, culture is a valuable tool to gain insight to planning better, smarter business strategies. We relied on input from local focus groups to improve our cultural understanding as well as identify our top challenges, opportunities, and priorities.

What were some unexpected challenges and how did you overcome them?

We had to work around people’s schedules and understand that, while we were there dedicated to a focused mission, others were in the midst of their busy lives. This meant being flexible with meeting times, transportation, and other arrangements. Additionally, political unrest in the capitol kept us on our toes for our travel itineraries!

What is some advice you would give to someone hoping to delve into the field of social entrepreneurship at an international level?
Talk to people. Identify mentors. The world of international social entrepreneurship is surprisingly well connected. If you have an idea, interest, or question, you will be amazed how quickly you can be put in touch with someone who has years of experience working towards similar solutions. People who enter this field tend to be altruistic personalities, so they are happy to reach out and support you. Before you know it, you will find yourself helping others in a similar way – and it is a great feeling. This is an exciting field, driven by thoughtful creativity, flexibility, and continuously developing opportunities.