Social Entrepreneurship in Mexico - 5 Questions to Mario Davila

March 18, 2015

Mario, last November, you took part in the “Grameen Social Business Research Conference” in Mexico City. There was a vast agreement among the participants that there is still a lot to be done in the social business sector in Latin America. What core challenges are Mexico and other countries in Latin America facing in that context?

Mario: In Mexico, we have only few examples of best practices of social business. In my opinion, social entrepreneurs need more financing supports in the early stages of their development. In general terms Latin American entrepreneurs are suffering from a  lack of available financing, which forces them to start their businesses with inferior equipment and technology.

Your research comprises central factors for the success or failure of BoP enterprises in becoming an integral part of Multinational Companies. Could you give us a short overview of the most important findings?

Mario: I explored the relationships among variables, analyzing the individual perspective of BoP empowered farmers of sustainable initiatives. If I need to select the most important findings of my research, I would choose the following:

- The building of trust in the implementation of sustainable initiatives is very important because with fewer levels of trust, the impact of programs will be poor.

- Building strong ties between the companies and people in the LIS, social intermediation is necessary.

- Social intermediaries play a fundamental role in the success of the program; some of their activities include finding other stakeholders that want to offer financing, training, and facilities to improve the skills of these people. The social intermediaries, according with the theory, can also be external actors, like NGO’s or social actors in the government.

The Social Entrepreneurship Model is still in its infancy, but lots of initiatives are addressing core social challenges in a very successful way. What lessons are there to be learnt both for the classical entrepreneurial scene but also for the political arena?

Mario: In my opinion, the main difference between the commercial - and the social entrepreneurship are the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of the entrepreneurs. The social entrepreneurs meet the social challenges directly with passion. They develop bridges among all key participants into the ecosystem. They are in summary “change makers”. For the political landscape that implies that policy makers need to develop particular programs with better incentives for projects with ascertainable social impact. The policy makers also need to invest in research projects to identify the best ways to select ideal options to generate socio-economic development.

You recently started a new job as Social Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator at the UANL (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon) School of Business in Monterrey. Would you say that among students in Mexico the topic “Social Entrepreneurship” is “en vogue”?

Mario: Absolutely, they care a lot of the social problems, because in their perspective, they see these problems every day. I work for a Mexican public university, we host every semester around 1,200 students within our social entrepreneurship program. We schedule conferences with social entrepreneurs, we also coordinate field visits to disadvantaged communities and elaborate other similar activities during the semester. Our intention is that our students can identify the social problems, and not only this. They need to generate socio-economic projects to tackle these problems.

As PhD student of one of the best Business Schools of Latin America, the EGADE, you are part of the IRENE|SEE program. How important do you see the connection of academic approaches and what are the benefits of being part of a network like the “empowering people Network”?

Mario: Being a part of IRENE SEE, meant to me a turning point in my professional and academic career, because I had huge opportunities of exchanging different point of views of the Social Entrepreneurship area, share materials, and obtain excellent feedback from the best experts in the field. Now I can say that I had an unsurpassable environment to learn about the topic.

Being now a member of the “Empowering People Network” gives me the chance to build up steadily my own peer network and to share knowledge with the international community of interested people on social entrepreneurship. I really think that the epN can give all of us the opportunity for mutual advice as well as the support for such urgent issues like how to identify scalable solutions for our disadvantaged communities in Mexico from other regions of the planet.