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Q&A with Grameen Creative Lab

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We recently had a chance to sit down with Margarita Gonzales from the Grameen Creative Lab to learn more about her work in Caldas, Colombia. 

For those who might not know, what is the Grameen Creative Lab (GCL)?


GCL is a Joint Venture between Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the German serial entrepreneur, Hans Reitz. It is in itself a social business that aims to accelerate and spread the Social Business movement around the world. Its activities are concentrated in three main areas: raising awareness, creating better understanding of Social Business through creative workshops and academic research, and generating social impact through Joint Ventures and partnerships.


Why is Caldas, Colombia an important location for Social Business and for GCL?


Caldas presents an incredible diversity of climates and very fertile lands. It also has five large universities with about 25,000 students. Despite these opportunities, Caldas is also facing important social and economic issues – including a struggling economy that has been hit hard by the drop of coffee prices and the loss of many industries.


Our partnership with Caldas began when the governor of Caldas, Mario Aristizabal, reached out to Professor Yunus at the Microcredit Summit in Cartagena in 2009. The Governor asked Professor Yunus to bring his poverty reduction methodology to Caldas. After learning more about Caldas, Professor Yunus agreed that Social Business offered great potential for improving the whole region’s poverty record and rebuilding its economy. In cooperation with the Caldas Group for Poverty Reduction, GCL operations began in Caldas in 2010 with a focus on four main areas: Education, Housing, Nutrition and Health.


Our whole program is called the Holistic Social Business Movement of Caldas, which combines a micro-credit organization, a Social Business Fund and Joint Venture programs ensuring synergies between them. Over time, we hope to expand our operations to become the Latin American Holistic Social Business Movement.


Our OpenIDEO community is quite the motivated, passionate bunch. What can they do if they'd like to get more involved in Social Business?


There are plenty of ways that you can have your own social impact through social business.


The very first one is to become a social entrepreneur yourself! We believe Social Business can have positive impacts on communities around the world. And we will certainly be looking for entrepreneurs here, in Caldas, to consider how we might implement some of the ideas that you come up with in this Challenge.


Another way to help is to join our team at Grameen Caldas. We are always looking for enthusiastic and motivated volunteers to support us in a variety of ways, from financial expertise to web-design and communications. These un-paid volunteer opportunities generally last for 3 months, but can easily be extended. We'll also help provide housing for volunteers during their stay. 


Plus, it turns out we are also looking for the CEO of Grameen Caldas! If you’re interested to learn more, send us your resume and a cover letter to or email us your questions.


We're always looking for great examples of local social change stories. What's your favorite Social Business story from your work in Caldas?


As a matter of fact, we just uploaded our very first Inspiration about Social Business! Head on over to the Inspiration phase and check it out!

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Nice! This would be a great article for anyone joining the challenge.