WEC & Its Partners Select the First Cohort of the Empower Innovation Challenge (EIC) “Inspire and Design the Future”

Aug 1, 2023 3:00 PM ET
"EIC Empower Innovation Challenge"

Click here for Spanish Version

More than US$1 million will be awarded to organizations that manage projects benefiting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises led by women in Latin America.

August 1, 2023 /3BL/ - The World Environment Center (WEC) and its partners the Núcleo de Biotecnología de Curauma (NBC)and Baastel, are pleased to announce the First Cohort of the "Empower Innovation Challenge" (EIC). The Challenge was open to 10 Latin American countries whose work benefit micro, small and medium-sized enterprises led by women in Latin America.

The eight winning organizations are:

  • Bancalimentos SAS BIC, "Creation of green businesses led by rural women" - Colombia.
  • Ecotarcoles, "Pacific Plastic Wood" - Costa Rica.
  • PAQOCHA, "Connecting knowledge with the Culebrillas community in the province of Bolivar and scaling up the alpaca fiber value chain for the Paqocha company as part of the Green/Blue economy" - Ecuador.
  • National Center for Cleaner Production Foundation, "MSME WOMEN Program" - El Salvador.
  • Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), "Project to Strengthen the Local Institutional Framework for Women and Individual and Collective Microenterprises" - Guatemala.
  • ALLPA Association for Sustainable Development, "Women of Santa Cruz and Andean Grains" - Peru.
  • Sector3 Social Venture Group, "Escala" - Peru.
  • Foro Ambiental de Samaná, "Samana Destino del Futuro, Mujeres Emprendedoras Liderando el Turismo Sostenible" - Dominican Republic.

Women's ability to access markets, including financial services, credit, capital, insurance, digital technologies and networks, is critical to fostering women's entrepreneurship and their overall economic security. The Global Equity and Equality (GEEA) (managed by U.S. Department of State's Global Women's Issues office (S/GW)) Fund promotes the economic security of women and girls by facilitating their access to resources, services and leadership opportunities, and addressing barriers that limit their ability to fully participate in the economy.

The organizers will hold three online competitions, this being the first, with the aim of choosing innovative solutions to enhance the development of MSMEs managed by women and generate more inclusive growth in each of the participating countries. In this case, the winning projects came from civil society organizations, educational institutions, centers focused on small business development, as well as organizations dedicated to implementing and promoting sustainable solutions, especially pollution prevention.

The awardees were selected by an independent jury comprising a multidisciplinary jury of experts in the region. These eight organizations make up the first cohort of a total of 24 organizations that the donor plans to benefit. Each organization will receive $50,000 in non-reimbursable funding for their one-year projects. In addition, the winners will become new members of the La Red de Innovación e Impacto (La Red), where they will be able to connect with other organizations in the region, share challenges and lessons learned, while strengthening their capacities and expanding their networks.

Each EIC competition will be held once a year, until 2025, where at the end 24 organizations dedicated to fostering the growth of women's economic security in the region will have benefited. This initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of State through the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues 2021 Global Equity and Equality Action Fund. Fund and implemented by the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Policy Planning Coordination Office (WHA/PPC)

For additional information please contact: 
Ernesto Samayoa, WEC Director of Operations: esamayoa@wec.org

Brief description of the awardees’ projects: 

  • Asociación ALLPA para el Desarrollo Sostenible, “Women of Santa Cruz and Andean Grains” - Peru. 
    The purpose of this project is to create the necessary conditions so that the member families of the Cooandina cooperative can sell their Andean grains -Kiwicha and Quinoa- in a more equitable way in the commercial circuits. This will be achieved by eliminating the dependence on the collectors who pay low prices to the producers and keep most of the profits generated by the value chain, increasing the family income that will allow them to satisfy their personal and collective needs and aspirations.
  • Bancalimentos SAS BIC, "Creation of green businesses run by rural women" - Colombia. 
    Provide financial and technical resources and support to women to achieve socioeconomic mobility through the co-creation and implementation of productive units that manufacture and market products based on recycled raw materials from the recycling that Bancalimentos users deposit in their food savings accounts.
  • Ecotarcoles, "Pacific Plastic Wood" - Costa Rica. 
    Through the ¨Pacific Plastic Wood¨ program, a new system is established within coastal communities, which reintegrates marine plastic waste into the value chain under a circular and regenerative approach. They specialize in the design and production of 100% recycled plastic wood for the construction, agricultural and industrial fields. With the implementation of this project, they hope to scale the impact to other regions, diversify local products and services, and encourage better consumption habits that reduce pollution in the oceans.
  • Foro Ambiental de Samaná, “Samana Destino del Futuro, Women Entrepreneurs Leading Sustainable Tourism" - Dominican Republic. 
    This project seeks to support 36 MSMEs led by women entrepreneurs who offer products or services to national and international tourists in the province of Samaná in the Dominican Republic. The overall objective is for the women owners and employees of the 36 MSMEs to increase their income and sell quality products and services to domestic and foreign tourists using sustainability criteria and increasing their sense of collectivity.
  • Fundación Centro Nacional de Producción Más Limpia, "MSME WOMEN Program" - El Salvador. 
    The MSME WOMEN Program accompanies and empowers MSMEs led by women, through training, information, and personalized advice, which allows them to improve the management, performance and competitiveness of their businesses. The methodology is through practical learning and creative spaces that help promote innovative thinking. Through this project they propose to train women who lead MSMEs in financial education, cleaner production, business improvement techniques, digital marketing, among others.
  • Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura (IICA), "Project to Strengthen the Local Institutional Framework for Women and Individual and Collective Microenterprises" - Guatemala. 
    For this specific proposal, the Federation of Artexco Cooperatives, the Tikonel Association and the Itzacoope Cooperative will work together, focusing on women's development. They will focus on the need to add value to products, especially handicrafts, and facilitate access to working capital, using the community bank methodology. They will also work on identifying markets in which they can place their products on a regular basis.
  • PAQOCHA, "Connecting knowledge with the Culebrillas community in the province of Bolívar and scaling up the alpaca fiber value chain for the Paqocha company as part of the Green/Blue economy" - Ecuador. 
    The project will work with the Sumak LLama association (Chimborazo) and the Culebrilllas community (Bolívar) on spinning techniques, natural dyeing, weaving design and commercial strengthening of PAQOCHA garments. The objective of this project is to strengthen the alpaca fiber value chain actors linked to the PAQOCHA company and increase sales. Capacity building will be generated to connect knowledge and increase the company's production volume.
  • Sector3 Social Venture Group, “Escala” – Perú. 
    The ESCALA program will reach 60 women entrepreneurs with business training combining virtual workshops and face-to-face sessions. It will also seek to enhance the technological platform that Escala manages to provide more and better functionalities to these students as well as future generations of Escala.

About La RED de Innovación e Impacto (La RED)  
La RED is an initiative that brings together non-profit and for-profit organizations to support micro, small and medium-sized institutions (MSMEs) in order to promote sustainable economic growth and prosperity in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). La RED was born in 2014 through a selection process of organizations that have been accelerating the development of sustainable business and promoting economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of State (DoS) and implemented by the World Environment Center (WEC) and its partners Le Groupe-conseil Baastel ltée (Baastel) and RioSlum Studio until June 2021. As of July 2021, La RED is supported through the leadership of its own member organizations and coordinated by the Nucleo Biotecnología Curauma (NBC) of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile.  


About World Environment Center (WEC)  
WEC is an independent, global non-profit, non-advocacy organization that promotes sustainable development through the business practices and operations of its member companies and in partnership with governments, multilateral organizations, non-governmental organizations, universities and other stakeholders. WEC’s mission is to promote business and its social value by advancing solutions to sustainable development related problems.


About Núcleo de Biotecnología de Curauma (NBC)  
NBC of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso is an R+D+i Center integrated by academics and professionals of excellence, with more than 10 years of experience in technological development, innovation and technology transfer in the area of science and technology. NBC seeks to make companies more productive, sustainable and competitive, visualizing itself in three years as a reference center to support Small and Mid-size Enterprises (SMEs) so they can increase their competitiveness. NBC develops innovative trends to face new economic, social and environmental challenges so we will live in a more sustainable world tomorrow. 


About Le Groupe-conseil baastel ltée (Baastel)  
Baastel is recognized for its quality services in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), Results Based Management (RBM), strategic planning, project and program management, and individual and institutional capacity building in these areas. Baastel’s outstanding reputation in the industry is built on a track record of international and national successes and expertise that is backed by attention to detail, quality, transparency and neutrality.