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SIX Interview Series: Julian Ugarte, Founder of Socialab

Author: Julian Ugarte
Published Date: 25 April 2013

Julian Ugarte, Founder of Socialab
Interviewed by Kevin Bosc of SIX

Socialab is a platform for social enterprises seeking to generate solutions to social problems with co-creation and networking. It is an initiative of the NGO TECHO, (created in Chile in 1997 and operating in Latin America.)

Socialab is supported by cofounding institutions such as the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and Movistar-Chile. Socialab supports entrepreneurs in Latin America which have new ideas to make a massive social impact for low-income people. Socialab is consulting for companies, supporting social entrepreneurs and organising competitions. It has offices in Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina.

What motivated TECHO to create Socialab?

If we continue to do the same things to overcome social problems--like poverty--we will spend too much time and many people will spend their lifes in unacceptable conditions. We should innovate to find disruptives ways to overcome these problems. That´s the reason why Techo created Socialab; a brand new platform to create new ways to overcome old challenges.

Could you give some examples of projects that are making a large impact in the lives of low-income people in the region?

The question is: where is Disruptive Social Innovation happening--the kind of innovation that will change the lives of millions of people?

I think Cria and Pipa, one consultancy company and incubator located in Rio-Brasil is doing a great Job. They are helping big companies to change traditional product and business models into impact models. At the same time, they are incubating in Pipa´s house around 10 new companies, really disruptive ones, to create social good trough technologies. In Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay is Socialab.Probably Ashoka is the other one.

How do you feel that the practice of social innovation is supported by governments, private initiatives and civil society in Latin America?

In Latin America, social innovations have the ability to overcome some social problems that governments can not, because they are too slow, or they just do not have the answer.

For example in Colombia, ANSPE (Agencia Nacional para la Superación de la Pobreza Extrema) should overcome 45% of extreme poverty in the next 4 years--this will involve water acces for millons of people, a roof, etc. These are 2 really difficult goals, so they have decided to create a "Open Call" for entrepreneurs who have some project or company that can overcome the situation.

They will spend money in grants for the best 5 projects, after reviewing the best 300 applicants. They winners will then take on the mission to reduce extreme poverty.

Basically if you want to create a big change, you must have many people and institutions on board, and having an "Open Call" to find share valued is, I think, pretty smart.

A problem is a opportunity of development.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges that need to be addressed in Latin America, both in the present and for the future?

Simply, an end to poverty and extreme poverty in record time (10 years).