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No 2  -  JANUARY 2014

Understanding Tola

A closer look at child rights, tourism and social entrepreneurship

The Sociopreneur Initiative, an alliance between Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa and UNICEF Nicaragua, kicked off in full gear in October 2013 after tons of prep work. The amazing international team from Policy Lab arrived in Nicaragua with a simple yet ambitious goal: to fully understand the social fabric of the municipality of Tola.
Equipped with Human Centered Design techniques, PLab spent almost two months interviewing close to 300 people. They wanted to see if Tola was ready to take on social entrepreneurship as a catalyst to improve the lives of children and create a more responsible tourism model. The answer was a resounding yes!
 
…But there’s a lot work to be done first. 
Mili Fonrouge (PLab) chatting with Doña Lupe and Grethel to better understand Tola and Toleños

Creating an "authorizing environment"

Two things became clear about Tola. First, social entrepreneurship is not an individual effort. It’s a collective endeavor.
 
Second, we noted that people with authority in Tola (e.g. mayors, community leaders, informal youth leaders, etc) are closely interconnected, with capacity to reach out to the entire community with ease (Graph 1). On the other hand, the few existing entrepreneurs  have a very limited social network, making it difficult to scale up their enterprises (Graph 2).
The dense and well-connected social fabric of the ´authorizing environment´ in Tola compared to the limited and sparse network of entrepreneurs.

As a result, both networks must come together, with the authorizing environment acting as a support mechanism for local entrepreneurs. In other words, to work and be sustainable, the Sociopreneur Initiative needs a social platform that supports the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem

Setting up "Tola Conecta"

Not wasting any time, Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa and UNICEF organized a workshop to create the commitment needed towards this platform. Over 20 folks ranging from local government, teachers, community leaders, artists, adolescents and mothers enthusiastically agreed to join the initiative!
Planting seeds: proud members of Tola Conecta
Tola Conecta will be led by the incredible Doña Lupe, the most proactive community leader in Tola. Super star, Gilbert Grijalva, CSR Coordinator for Guacalito de la Isla, also graciously agreed to serve as Secretariat of the platform.

Bringing together such a diverse group of people, and ensuring their commitment towards Tola Conecta was no walk in the park. But the real challenges still lay ahead… 
The inspiring Doña Lupe and prolific Gilbert take on the leadership of Tola Conecta

Creating a responsible tourism model

Tola Conecta will work towards a tourism model where the community selects the kind of tourist it wants.To this end, it needs to build a framework of incentives (and constraints) that may influence the flux of tourists that come to Tola.
 
For instance, establishments that may turn a blind eye towards child labor may be ranked low in a sort of locally designed “Trip Advisor” system. This will send a clear message to tourists about the values of the community and tourism standards it wants to encourage. 
Mobilizing forces across public, community and private sectors
A view of Mukul from above

Tourists as 'volunteers'

Tola Conecta will also take advantage of volunteer tourism opportunities. By matching what local entrepreneurs need and what tourists can offer through volunteering, the platform will increase tourism activity through positive experiences that simultaneously create value for child development and a responsible tourism.
 
The main goal is to set up a volunteer tourism model that responds to the demands of the community and not the other way around.
Jon and Gilbert from Guacalito de la Isla talking to community members about the Sociopreneur Initiative

'Friends of Tola Network'

Tola Conecta will also be the main driver behind the development of the Friends of Tola Network. These are the external entrepreneurs, supporters, like-minded stakeholders interested in supporting, coaching or mentoring local entrepreneurs kick-start their social business for children, particularly in disseminating new technologies and know-how.

Guests at Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa are especially encouraged to participate!
Spreading the word at the Centre for Social Innovations in NYC.

Capitalizing on the ´word-of-mouth'

Tola Conecta will be the main hub to disseminate success stories both inside and outside the community. ‘Word of mouth’ can be a powerful catalyst for encouraging and rewarding good practices affecting children and responsible tourism.
Rafael Villa from PLab using complexity theory to induce the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem: from ´idle´to entrepreneur!
This will be key to change existing social beliefs that affect many of the local entrepreneurs. Tola Conecta will have to change the ‘you-can’t’ mentality to ‘try it out, I’m here for you!’ This will be done through continuous mentoring and encouragement for risk-taking and support.
Believing in the potential of local youth

Next steps...

A series of workshops are planned for February. These will provide the tools needed to mentor and support local entrepreneurs kick-start their social businesses.  

They will involve innovative techniques, from Rapid Results to prototyping.

Stay tuned!
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