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Quito

Student Blog | Weekend Journey Through the Quilotoa Loop

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Guest blogger Shanae Atkinson is a student in the Summer 2017 semester of Change Lab International: Ecuador – a unique, interdisciplinary program in global social entrepreneurship delivered by RADIUS, the Beedie School of Business, Impaqto Quito and Insight Global Education

Last weekend four of us went on a 2 day trek in the Andes called the Quilotoa Loop. We had planned to walk 3 portions of the trail, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, we left later in the day and ran out of daylight. Instead of hiking from Sigchos to Isinlivi, we took an unofficial taxi in the form of a pickup truck.  It was really fun to see the locals who were also using this mode of transportation. There was this cute elderly lady who stood up and waved at passerby’s for a good long portion of the journey.

We ended up arriving just in time for dinner at the nicest hostel on the loop, Llu Llu Llama. Even on such short notice they were able to find us rooms and serve us dinner, despite our dietary restrictions (2 vegetarians and 1 vegan).

Luckily for us, their power had gone out earlier in the day, so spa time had been postponed until after dinner! After a fairly long day of travel, albeit in vehicles, the jacuzzi was very welcomed.

The next morning, we packed up before 8 am and headed out right after breakfast. We were the first group to leave the hostel, but because we got lost, we were quickly overtaken by the others.

The first part of the journey was absolutely beautiful. We descended into a deep valley with large vibrant green hills surrounding it. We walked past many farms as we trekked alongside the river. A horse even tried to gnaw on my arm. We crossed the river on the best giant log bridge I’ve ever seen. Some of us also crossed a rotting suspension bridge for fun! But soon we were faced with the knowledge that everything that goes down must come back up. In this case, at a very steep grade. The resulting exertion as we climbed out of the canyon made the previous part of the trek seem like a cake walk in comparison.

Once out of the canyon, we were met with an absolutely amazing view of the valley. The rest of the journey to Chugchilán proved to be far less difficult, though also less interesting. Having walked 12.4 km by this point, we were delighted to reach the hostel and take a nap. The slight increase in elevation from Isinlivi to Chugchilán created a large change in temperature and we were pleased to find that Cloud Forest Hostel had warm fluffy sheets and many blankets to keep warm. The following morning, we were nearly the last to leave the hostel, as many of our friends had cheated and eaten breakfast early. We began with a quick descent into a valley followed by an even faster ascent out of the valley leading us to a farm. The owners of the farm seemed pretty used to this situation and very quickly sent two adorable small children to guide us to the rest of the trail. We unloaded much of our candy onto the children to express our gratitude (only partially because it was heavy and we didn’t want to carry it).

Next, we took a bit of a wrong turn, but thanks to the wonderful locals who didn’t get angry when we were trespassing (by accident), we were quickly given the right directions and sent on our way (once again parting with the heavy candy). The next part of the hike was a slow climb up many switchbacks to the rim of Quilotoa- where we were met with an absolutely phenomenal view and a great sense of fulfillment. I highly recommend this hike as it allows you to visit areas that would otherwise be very nearly inaccessible and to see the agricultural practices of the Andes. We saw cows, sheep, the occasional goats, and some alpacas or llamas, I’m still not sure which. We met a friendly donkey who used its body to do the equivalent of “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” when they could get some great neck rubs from us. All in all, a great experience!

Student Blog | Justine Taesa Recaps Change Lab International: Ecuador

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Guest blogger Justine Taesa is a student in the Summer 2017 semester of Change Lab International: Ecuador – a unique, interdisciplinary program in global social entrepreneurship delivered by RADIUS, the Beedie School of Business, Impaqto Quito and Insight Global Education

“Change Lab Ecuador?”

I stared at the words that I hastily scribbled into my notebook, as I had been running late into class and just caught the last bit of the presentation. I was looking for something different from my usual life in Vancouver, as well as some form of direction I could take my education. I had no idea what social innovation was, where this program would take me, or why I felt so compelled to go, but I applied the following night.

Fast forward 6 months, and here I am! I am now currently living in Quito, while learning and discovering the world of social innovation. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t caught that last minute of the presentation, decided to apply for a program I knew little about, or made the decision to leave my work contract 2 months early to be here.

It is safe to say that I do not regret my decision one bit. Since arriving here in Ecuador, I have felt right at home. I have already had the opportunity to make some amazing connections and friendships. In addition, I have been extremely fortunate to be paired with a great company through ImpaQto – the social enterprise incubator partnered with RADIUS and Insight Global Education.

At the start of the program, all of the students were matched with an entrepreneur to assist with their start-up projects. We were to provide assistance in any way that we could, while learning about the process of starting a business. We were all extremely lucky to get our first or second choice in who we wanted to work with. I was paired with BionicsTech, a company that has developed a fully functioning bionic hand, which would be available at a fraction of the price of those already on the market. The BionicsTech entrepreneurs themselves are still learning about how to market and turn their product into a business, and I have the opportunity to assist in the project’s growth.

Despite my not being a business student, they are excited to receive input from a different perspective, while also gaining assistance in the communications department. So far, I have been doing a lot of translating, while also editing applications for grants and conferences in English. Through this work, I have learned a lot about the complexity of the entrepreneurial process. It is incredibly inspiring to work with this team of talented and dedicated entrepreneurs.

However, this trip has definitely not been solely about work! On the weekends we have many opportunities to go about and explore. Between the activities on the coast, the Andes and the Amazon, there’s no shortage of places to go. Last weekend, our entire cohort took a trip to Baños, a small mountain town that is the centre of adventure tourism here. The magic of Baños is hard to describe- but just imagine colourful streets, towering mountains, and abundance of friendly travelers.

Not only did we get to experience the lush plant life in the wilderness, but we also had the opportunity to zipline right over some truly unique views of the Andes, flying hundreds of feet over the ground. A few of us then went to the Pailon Del Diablo, a massive, thundering waterfall that we were able to climb up behind and get soaked.

On our final day in Baños, our luck with the weather had run out and the rain had set back in. However, this did not stop us from getting out to see the famous Casa Del Arbol, which features a massive swing overlooking the Tungurangua volcano. Unfortunately, the fog was too thick to see much of the mountains, but the swing was exhilarating nonetheless. We left Baños feeling the abundance of good vibes from the city, ready for another work week in Quito.

I don’t know where the rest of this trip will take me – both work wise and travel wise, but I look forward to every opportunity I get. I am excited to explore everything I possibly can throughout Ecuador.

Summer 2017 – Change Lab International: Ecuador

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Change Lab is going international! 

Want to spend your summer in South America learning Spanish and creating a sustainable social venture? Change Lab International: Ecuador combines three unique components – study, design, and travel – to explore social venture design from a global perspective.

RADIUS, in partnership with Insight Global Education, SFU’s Beedie School of Business, and Impaqto Quito, is excited to present this unique opportunity for current students to collaborate and innovate in one of Latin America’s most entrepreneurial economies and one of the most biodiverse countries on earth: Ecuador!

The program is open to undergraduate students of all backgrounds, and runs from late May to mid-August, 2017. No previous experience or education in business is required to thrive in this program. Gain career-relevant experience, travel, study, and explore South America – all while earning credits towards your degree!

Learn more here.

The Final Stretch: Qataliza & teary goodbyes

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Milica Pavlovic recently returned from three months with RADIUS and Slingshot Venture Youth In Development in Quito, Ecuador. You can read more about her experiences here.

While all of my time in Ecuador flew by way too quickly, the final weeks were especially hectic in preparation for the RADIUS’ & Impacto Quito trail blazing bootcamp: Qataliza. Our 12 hour bootcamp for young, aspiring change-makers was scheduled for April 11th, with my departure date looming on April 14th. Tasked with creating all the resources for the participants’ packages and planning the execution of various other elements of the Qataliza agenda, my last two weeks definitely provided new learning experiences in design, graphics, organizational skills, and team work.84-DSC_9247Based on Human Centered Design and SEEN methodology, Qataliza combined elements of both “ideation” and “social enterprise” bootcamps;  it first compelled participants to seek out their passions and purpose, and then allowed them to explore meaningful solutions using social enterprise tools like rapid prototyping and the social business model canvas. In just 12 hours, Qataliza aimed to turn “ideas into action” by engaging participants in a carefully selected sequence of impactful exercises led by our amazing facilitators David Lamka and Leonello Bertini.

37-DSC_8987Once participants had completed exercises to expose the problems that they were most passionate about, teams were formed based on common interests. For the rest of the bootcamp, the teams and their chosen problem/interest area would serve as an example upon which to apply the social enterprise tools in the second half of Qataliza. The 6 teams formed within Qataliza reflected very diverse problems, including: child labour and informal work, the elderly, neglected animals, the reintegration of ex-convicts into society, recycling and environmental consciousness, and business enhancement.12-DSC_8890For me, one of the most rewarding moments occurred at the very end of the bootcamp, when several participants approached the Impacto team and expressed their gratitude for this opportunity. After a mentally, physically, and emotionally demanding 12 hour day, it was amazing to witness a room full of high-energy participants who were genuinely excited about all they had achieved within Qataliza. This positive feedback was further re-iterated in the next few days when participants submitted formal feedback via e-mail, with many stressing that Qataliza had equipped them with the practical skills and resources to move forward with their ideas! After several long and challenging weeks of work in areas where I previously had very little expertise, I was thrilled that Qataliza had such an incredible impact on our first cohort of bootcampers, and humbled to have played a central role in that experience.

81-DSC_9238In the following three days, my post-Qataliza energy was disrupted by the abrupt realization that I would soon have to leave Quito and all the people I had just spent 3 months with. With a heavy heart, I tearfully said goodbye/see you later to my amazing new friends and a beautiful country. It is only fitting to wrap up this blog with a quick shout-out to the Impacto crew and all the other incredible people I met along the way: thanks for everything, I miss you so much already, and I will see you in the future!

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Salto Social cohort pitches learnings and challenges at Impacto Quito’s Mentor Night

By | Accelerator, Quito, RADIUS Ventures, Social Innovation | No Comments

Milica Pavlovic is spending three months with RADIUS in Quito, Ecuador and reporting back on her experiences.

After the official wrap-up of the Salto Social program earlier this month, our 5 teams of social entrepreneurs were reunited for Impacto Quito’s Mentor Night community event. To kick off, each team made a brief pitch to an audience of 40+ community members, introducing their social ventures and summarizing their key insights from Salto Social, their next steps, and what they need further help with in order to achieve their business objectives this year.

In the Speed Mentoring portion of the night, the Salto Social teams and fellow mentees had the opportunity to seek guidance on specific questions from the mentors. The 11 Salto Social mentors—socially and environmentally conscious community leaders and innovators across several consumer and commercial good sectors—provided advice and support to our team of entrepreneurs. For example, Carla Pinto, founder of the large and successful Pinto retail clothing brand marketed across Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, connected with Veronica Buitron from Suspiro, Salto Social’s environmentally conscious and very talented handbag designer.

jose speed mentoring

To recap, Salto Social’s 5 teams of social entrepreneurs are:

  • Veronica Buitron from SuspiroAn independent textiles designer partnered with local artisans using natural materials and ancient textiles production techniques to produce a diverse line of bags and scarves for the environmentally conscious consumer.
  • Jose Fabara & his team from El Carpazo – A popular one-day music festival based in Quito created for musicians by musicians, kicking off its third year on April 25th and attracting widespread attention within Ecuador. This year’s theme is environmental sustainability and awareness, and the lineup includes popular and alternative artists from various musical genres.
  • Jorge Flores & Felipe Alvarez from Reino Fungi – A venture formed by a team that cultivates, produces, and is seeking distribution channels for their Oyster mushrooms. The founders of Reino Fungi were inspired to start their venture when they noticed a lack of socially and environmentally responsible products in this niche market, and a demand among vegetarian and vegan consumers, as well as environmentally conscious and gourmet food vendors.
  • Ernesto Palacios Merino & his team from KradacA company formed by a team of specialized engineers who research, design, and create a range of products that reflect high quality technological solutions to various functional problems. Examples include: specialized robots, alarm systems, and satellite tracking for vehicles.
  • Andrea Jaramillo Armijos, Vicente Merino Alvarado & David Benitez Mora from Lunyxtec – A company that aims to reduce and recycle CO2 emissions caused by natural gas consumption and organic waste via their recycling system prototype for agricultural and farm use.

vicente and andrea speed mentoring

Here’s what they said about their key insights from participating in Salto Social:

  • Learning how to navigate the canvas business model – Veronica from Suspiro and Andrea from Lunyxtec emphasized the importance of learning how to calculate their break even point when developing their marketing strategies
  • Developing a clear business plan for the future and recognizing which areas still need improvement.
  • Developing crucial organizational skills by investing the time to work through various exercises focused on specific tasks, e.g. conducting a market analysis 

Here’s what they said about their next steps:

  • Reino Fungi – with the production of their Oyster mushrooms well underway, Jorge and Felipe are now focussed on securing different channels of distribution for their product, including organic & gourmet markets and suitable restaurants.
  • Lunyxtec- their next step is to finish the first biodigestor model and to assemble a portable prototype for demonstration so that they can move forward with marketing to target clients.
  • Suspiro & El Carpazo – Veronica from Suspiro is focusing her efforts on marketing and sales, both within Ecuador and in the United States. Jose from El Carpazo is also focusing on marketing his upcoming festival and applying new strategies to increase ticket sales.

Here’s what they said about their key challenges & areas where they are still seeking help:

  • Boosting product sales – Veronica from Suspiro and Felipe from Reino Fungi are working on better understanding their client segment in order to increase future sales; Andrea from Lunyxtec needs advice to create a marketing plan to gain publicity and manage the competition
  • Time constraints – all teams emphasized the challenges of running their ventures while also participating in Salto Social and managing other responsibilities
  • Seeking further guidance from mentors with experience in their particular fields – Felipe from Reino Fungi and Jose from El Carpazo are looking to connect with mentors in their specific market niches

mentor night group photo

The Salto Social Accelerator is delivered in partnership with Impacto Quito and is supported by Global Agents for Change.

Salto Social: The Final Stretch

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Milica Pavlovic is spending three months with RADIUS in Quito, Ecuador and reporting back on her experiences.

Salto SocialWith only one class left in the Salto Social incubator program, this week the five teams of Ecuadorian entrepreneurs worked together to calculate the finances behind their business models.

This second to last session proved an eventful one, with Felipe and Jose from Reino Funghi presenting their delicious mushrooms for the Salto Social and Impacto Quito members to enjoy. During the class break, we helped ourselves to samples while the team behind the mushrooms briefly explained the cultivation process and their passion for their product.

Next week, with the wrap-up of the Salto Social incubator, the teams will prepare their final lessons and begin to formulate their business pitch for a community event which will take place the following week.

Felipe and Jose from Reino Funghi

Felipe and Jose from Reino Funghi

Through this, the teams will apply the skills acquired throughout the Salto Social incubator and have the opportunity to present their innovations to mentors, community members, and other interested stakeholders.

Between the intensive incubator classes on Wednesday and the legal aid workshop on Thursday and Friday which some of the Salto Social team members are attending, this week has been a busy one for both Salto Social and Impacto Quito!

Read Milica’s last post about her time in Quito here.

 

Quito: Fireside Chats with Leaders of Social Innovation

By | Accelerator, Quito, Social Innovation | No Comments

Milica Pavlovic is spending the next three months with RADIUS in Quito, Ecuador and reporting back on her experiences.

Fireside Chat event image - speakersOn my first official day in Quito, I was invited to attend Impacto Quito’s Charlas Intimas con Lideres de Innovacion Social (Fireside Chats with Leaders of Social Innovation) – the local Shaping Davos event leading up to the live, online Shaping Davos forum on behalf of Global Shapers and the 2015 World Economic Forum.

The Fireside Chats featured 5 local business leaders speaking to an audience of 40 local social entrepreneurs about how they achieved success within an innovation resistant socio-cultural environment.

Among the speakers were: Santiago Peralta and Carla Barboto from Pacari Chocolates, Leslie Jarrin from Thoughtworks, Martin Acosta from Kiwa potato chips, and Juan Sebastian Aguirre (Apitatan) – a talented street artist whose witty & distinct art has attracted international attention.

Each of the speakers exuded an unparalleled passion for their venture and candidly shared their wisdom with an engaged audience of budding social entrepreneurs.

Apitatan - fish

One of Apitatan’s street art pieces

During Santiago Peralta’s presentation, I immediately recognized the Pacari chocolate brand and later learned that the company had recently expanded their business to many international markets, including Vancouver, Canada. As a notorious chocolate lover, I felt honored to share the same space as Santiago & Carla, who later treated us to complementary samples of their world renowned, award-winning chocolates.

After the presentations, the audience and keynote speakers broke off into teams to mingle, network, and exchange ideas, challenges, and personal experiences of social innovation in Ecuador. At this point the altitude and full day of travel was beginning to its toll, so I sat back and enjoyed the warm environment and a complementary beer. As the night wound down, many people stuck around to socialize, listen, learn, and share their stories, creating a safe and welcoming space to enhance a growing network of current and future change makers in Quito.

Speakers

Although it had proven to be a long and eventful first day, that night I left the Impacto Quito office feeling welcomed, excited, and part of a tight-knit community of like-minded people forging their paths to make a difference in the world. What better way to end my first day in a new place?

Fireside Chat crowd

Back from Quito’s Salto Social accelerator

By | Accelerator, Quito, RADIUS Ventures, Social Innovation | No Comments

RADIUS Director Shawn Smith returned last week from working with the Ecuadorean entrepreneurs in our “Salto Social” accelerator program in Quito. Run in conjunction with partners Impacto Quito and Global Agents for Change, the program is the first of its kind in Ecuador.

Running from October 2014 through February 2015, Salto Social is adapted from the 10 week Trampoline program RADIUS developed for social ventures attempting to validate their business models, which has already met success with entrepreneurs in a number of BC communities.

Shawn Quito Jan 2015 2

Shawn was in Quito last week for a special session, and joins other weeks by video conference from Vancouver in support of the excellent on the ground delivery team of Andres Ypes and Daniella Peralvo, both from Quito.

Shawn Quito Jan 2015 1

The 5 ventures in this inaugural cohort are:

Suspiro Taller – Suspiro is a socially conscious design workshop. We work with artisans from Ecuador to create textiles and bags using natural materials and traditional knowledge.

Hongos Alinimbi – an organic mushroom production company working to deliver fresh, organic mushrooms to local markets, restaurants and consumers.

Kradac – Working on a made in Ecuador prosthetics solution to create access to prosthetic limbs at dramatically lower prices.

Lunyxtec – designers of sustainable products for Ecuador, currently validating their business model for a rural biodigestor that can be sold to medium sized farms (a biodigestor is an airtight chamber in which anaerobic digestion of manure, biosolids, food waste, other organic wastewater streams or a combination of these feedstocks occurs. This process produces commodities such as biogas (a blend of methane and carbon dioxide), animal bedding, and fertilizer.)

Carpazo – a cultural events production company building on a very successful local music festival.

Salto Social Accelerator


RADIUS intern Milica Pavlovic arrived in Quito this week to continue supporting development of this program, as well as an additional collaboration with Impacto Quito to create a social entrepreneurship bootcamp for youth in Quito which we hope will launch in April. Milica connected with us through her work with Youth In Development, one of the current cohort of Slingshot Ventures. Milica will also be blogging about her experience, so stay tuned for more updates!