Regional Spotlight: Meet Some of our Favorite Latin American Innovators

Put on your big red hat and channel the jet-setting Carmen Sandiego for a new series where we roam the world in search of social entrepreneurs and innovators enacting bold change in their communities.

First stop on this digital adventure: Latin America. Meet some incredible changemakers from the region who are all worth knowing for their high-impact ventures and their spirited personalities. Learn more about these innovators below.

Eleazar Guevara Portillo, NOVABORI, Mexico

“The most important innovation in my life at the moment is to create marketable fashion products with recycled fibers and to open the commercialization to everybody. Novabori is working with a network of different textile agents that I´m sure are starting to change their minds about their work, they are beginning to appreciate the importance and impact of it to make a difference for people and the planet.”

Emily Stone, Uncommon Cacao, Belize & Guatemala

How sweet! Emily Stone is making global impact by disrupting the cacao market dynamics in Central America. Her organization, Uncommon Cacao connects farmers globally to deliver premium quality, high-impact cacao to chocolate makers. She is one step closer to radically transparent supply chains that drive maximum value to farmers and create long-term meaningful impact for communities.

Feliciano Reyna, Acción Solidaria, Venezuela

Since 1997, Feliciano has been building a network of AIDS Community Service Centers in Venezuela — a country severely lacking in effective prevention — by drawing support from diverse sectors of society. The Centers bring people living with the virus into direct contact with those who are not infected, to sensitize the public and to foster prevention through shared experiences. In May 19th 2017, he was recognized by Amnesty International for his work.

Isabel Medem, X-runner, Peru

Three million people in the slums of Lima, Peru don’t have access to modern sanitation. These communities face serious health risks caused by polluted air and water, as well as the proliferation of disease-transmitting insects. Isabel developed a reliable, cost-effective solution for households without access to toilets. Her company has developed a waterless sanitation system which works without piping or sewers, and costs users half as much as pit latrines. Clean, water-free toilets.

Julián Ugarte, Socialab, Chile

To address the world’s most pressing issues, innovators must educate and empower all people to solve problems in their communities. In Chile, Julian is creating a society-supported movement of changemakers who are addressing issues of inequality. Socialab is popularizing social problem-solving by providing the resources, credibility, and call to action for people from all walks of life to be protagonists in developing solutions wherever they see challenges.

Leonardo Sakamoto, Repórter Brasil, Brazil

As a freelance journalist, Leonardo Sakamoto often found himself taking long bus trips across Brazil. Through many of these journeys, he became increasingly uncomfortable with the intense human rights violations he observed in his home country. So in 2001, Sakamoto created Repórter Brasil, an organization dedicated to to publish reports on and denounce the crimes of slave labor. Through the training of public agents responsible for the realization of labor rights, his work has grown to aid other nations like Pakistan and Germany. In June 2017, he was recognized by the U.S. State Department for his service.

Mary Anne Muller, Fundación Origen, Chile

When a generation of children and youth are seen as delinquent, it takes a changemaker like Mary Anne to develop new models to shift the direction of future generations. Fundación Origen implements an alternative secondary school model for low-income, at-risk children which integrates classroom learning with attention to each student’s personal development, as well as hands-on training in sustainable agriculture.

Oscar Mendez, Conceptos Plásticos, Colombia

One man’s trash is another man’s building blocks. Conceptos Plásticos has found a way to tackle waste and housing problems at the same time. They transform plastic and rubber waste into new housing systems out of which temporary or permanent houses, schools and other public buildings can be constructed. New buildings and houses can be finished within only a few days and don’t require expert knowledge.

Pierre Herrouët, Solar Inti, Argentina

Meet the Frenchman who champions solar ovens in the north of Argentina. When Pierre observed the toxic smoke coming from traditional stoves in indigenous communities throughout Argentina, he sourced materials and organized participatory workshops for community members to build their own solar ovens. “The community has been strengthened thanks to the workshops and they feel able to take on other projects. That is empowerment.”

Stay tuned for the next edition of Where in the World is Ashoka?