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Chicas Poderosas New Ventures Lab

Empowering women to lead independent news and media organizations in Latin America.

Photo of Vicki Hammarstedt
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Who we are and why this is important:

Chicas Poderosas is a worldwide network whose goal is to empower and increase the number of women taking leadership roles in news and media organizations.

Since 2013, Chicas Poderosas has been working with women in journalism and media by providing digital and technical skills training, and by establishing local communities of practice. Our communities are now in thirteen countries in Latin America, the USA and Portugal, and have over 3,000 members.

Through our work and research we continue to find that even with training and advanced skills, women in journalism and media continue to lag substantially behind men as leaders in this industry.  Generally, women do not hold editorial or  top-level management positions, which are key positions in deciding the news that is to be reported, and shared with the public. Additionally, the number of women leading news organizations is almost close to zero. This inequality results in biased reporting and suppresses the voice of women, thereby impacting the rights of women and girls, the social and economic structure, civic engagement, and democratic governance- all of which are detrimental to the well being of more than half the population of Latin America. This situation impacts not only women but also sets the stage for fostering inequality among minorities and people of lower socioeconomic status. 

What is at stake for Latin America in 2017?

"We continue to live in a region highly unequal for women, especially those from ethnic minorities and living in rural areas. We cannot progress when women’s voices remain at the margins of public policy discussions. This does not only mean increasing women who participate in political office, but also dismantling harmful stereotypes." Camila Bustos, researcher at Dejusticia and Nivela, Bogotá, Colombia.

What we plan to do:

We plan to develop an accelerator, the New Ventures Lab, to develop women-led independent, news and media organizations in Latin America. The women-led news organizations will be representative of the population, be the free press to inform the public on the issues of social importance, and will aim to increase civic engagement among the most vulnerable populations.

How we collaborate in Latin America:

Chicas has a strong collaborative network within Latin America and globally, and we plan to continue to use this network to support our NVL.  For example, we will draw on the expertise of independent news organizations’ such as Genero e Número, and Agencia Pública in Sao Paulo, Brazil, FNPI in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, and Nómada in Guatemala City, Guatemala as coaches, mentors and trainers. We will draw on our international colleagues from online news such as ProPublica, the BBC News Worldwide, and BuzzFeed to share insights and practices with our entrepreneurs and mentors.

The Chicas communities are inherently collaborative and currently work across borders to support stories, and projects or initiate events that support the greater community. Examples can be found on the Chicas Poderosas Medium Publication, Chicas Poderosas Facebook  and 

Our intersect with peace and prosperity:

Our project bridges peace because women in leadership positions, being responsible to inform and report stories of social importance, will seek opportunities to identify parties, goals, needs, and interests that may be different than the current majority.  These women will find room for perspectives beyond the usual sources and will provide opportunities for the society to consider and to value peaceful and alternative responses. Our project bridges prosperity because we are giving women a path to entrepreneurship, elevating their social status as leaders and giving them the tools to build their own sustainable economic future. Journalists are often seen as models within a society and we see the NVL as a model for other women to see the potential within themselves as innovators and entrepreneurs.

Explain your idea

How we plan to do this: As stated above, Chicas Poderosas has designed a program, the New Ventures Lab (NVL), to develop women-led independent news and media organizations in Latin America. The NVL accelerator will utilize human centered design to support the teams in the development of their news organizations. We propose to launch the first NVL in Brazil, learn from this experience, and iterate as needed to allow us to follow on with a second round and then launch NVL’s in regions of greatest need. How we use human centered design: NVL Brazil will begin by inviting women from select regions within the country to three human centered design weekends-planned for Sao Paulo, Manaus and Recife. The purpose of the weekend is to convene working groups to plan how we will use human centered design during the accelerator process, and to describe the support that Chicas Poderosas provides to teams with expected outcomes and the opportunities that follow for teams in terms of resources, support and investment capital. We plan to partner with design thinking practitioners from the region, as we have Chicas who specialize in this process. We plan to choose the first cohort of two women-led teams to participate via an application process. The two teams will allow us to manage the process with the allocated staff, iterate and make adjustments quickly, and adapt. After teams are selected and our first cohort is formed, we begin the seventeen-week accelerator. The accelerator is designed to allow for teams within the cohort to work remotely online with a flexible schedule-and also provide in-person opportunities for collaboration. The accelerator will include scheduled online trainings, team coaching, networking, connections to investment capital and funders, business model and strategy sessions, planning for sustainability;- within the framework of human centered design. We will organize three multi-day, in-person, seminar style working sessions during the seventeen-week period. Our goal is to help teams develop a plan with a working prototype of their organization that includes a strategy for launching and sustaining their independent, investigative news or media organization. Over the next three years, taking what we've learned from out the experience with the first cohort of participants, we plan to expand the NVL to Mexico in year two, continuing with the NVL in Brazil, and then build in other Latin American countries in year three-in an effort to reach women who would not otherwise have the support or resources to lead an independent, investigative news or media organization. The long term plan is to create a scaleable model that can be adapted to many regions of the world. We will measure our success by the number of women who actively become involved at any step in the process of design thinking to prototype to launch of a new media venture, plus those who have been impacted by the experience & embrace the methodology.

Who Benefits?

The beneficiaries are the people living in the regions across Latin America where the women-led independent news organizations are founded. This inclusive free press will lead to awareness and open dialogue on issues of gender, social and economic welfare and address populations marginalized by absence of news and information that serves the public interest. Overall this is a project of global proportions. We know from previous experience that actions of women in one region, inspire action of women in other regions. Chicas are a network of women who reach out across physical and political boundaries to work together and collaborate. As women in media, we see the benefit of this program inspiring other women in all areas of entrepreneurship to push the boundaries of what has been possible to create what can be possible now and into the future.

How is your idea unique?

While there are accelerators that support “start-ups”,-none focus on or address the issues that discourage women from attempting to be innovative, to be entrepreneurs and to become leaders of their own news organizations. Our research and conversations with women in the media industry say that there must be a deliberate effort focused on this underserved population to create the change and develop sustainable women entrepreneurship in Latin America. We believe in the success of this idea because it focuses on the journey, allows for iteration, has a nimble process and includes a powerful support network of women throughout the world.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about you

This project is in the framework of the Chicas Poderosas INC programming. Mariana Santos and Vicki Hammarstedt, co-directors, will make this a reality. Mariana devotes 100% of her time to Chicas Poderosas currently and will continue to do so in the future. Vicki is based in Berkeley, CA USA, Mariana will be based in Brazil. We are looking for collaborators to help guide the human centered design process and to ask the tough questions of how we think and what we do as we move through the stages of this program.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Paul Spurzem

Hi Vicki, very cool idea -- a couple questions:
--How do you find and invite eligible chicas to your programs?
--Do you have any materials available to share that that might inspire secondary school girls in regions you don't currently operate in? (I didn't see Peru on your list)

If you get a chance, check out the 'Visionaria' initiative my team just submitted...

P.S. dang, we just left Berkeley!

Photo of Vicki Hammarstedt

Hi Paul,
Thank you for your comments.
We invite any woman who has interest and is willing to contribute in any way. It's really not an issue as the community building in Latin America is very strong. Most of the Chicas who want to be involved/join Chicas Poderosas do it by word of mouth, via the Facebook pages for each country or they see an event and attend. We do plenty of organic outreach on university campuses with news organizations and through events that other organizations hold.

We do have a group in Peru- that is really quite active, each country has a Facebook page- and while they have plenty of activities going on in country there is alot of cross pollination between countries. We are working on a project right now that involves several countries in Latin America where the reporters are looking at Feminicide in each region.

We do not yet do work specifically with secondary school girls- although I believe it's a great idea.

I'll take a look at Visionaria- and let's keep in touch.


Photo of Sina Mossayeb

At a time when journalism is so important, yet under great threat, this feels like a ripe initiative. While the focus of the service is for women, I believe all benefit from the empowering efforts described here. One thing I'd like to see in this description is what are indicators that you are succeeding? What milestones will show progress? Beyond output, what are the outcomes? (Full transparency: I serve on the Board of CP)

Photo of Vicki Hammarstedt

Thank you Sina. I've added in a brief description of how we will measure our success. I think perhaps a gantt chart with milestones would be of value to best visualize this. Yet, sadly I may not have this completed before the deadline.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Vicki!

interesting project!

Just to re-iterate what Daniela mentioned below, any supporting images are always useful.

Is this the website of your organisation? Please would you include a link in your post.

Tip: to activate links in your post, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post . Scroll down to your Full Description field. Select the text you'd like to link, hit the link icon in the Rich Text Editor at the top of this field and enter your link. That way everyone will be able to check it out easily, straight from your post.

Thinking of 1, 2 and 3 year timelines, what stages would your project be at?

Would you also include links to any papers or articles to support 'This inequality results in a bias in reporting and has been shown to suppress the voice of women impacting the rights of women and girls, the social and economic structure, civic engagement, and democratic governance'? There is no need to include the information from the articles it is just to create a more comprehensive submission. For example, this article for Central America -

If you could include any information on the people who might be leading the accelerator. Links to LinkedIn profiles, profiles on websites would be great.

Photo of Vicki Hammarstedt

Hi Kate,
Great suggestions and yes, we will add all this information. Keep the input coming- so appreciated.
Best, Vicki

Photo of Daniela Restrepo Ortiz

Hey Vicki Hammarstedt this is an amazing idea! Seems like you have experience and have already understand the needs of women from the latin american context. Could you go further into how this idea may have an impact in a more global scale? It could also help if you upload some pictures of these empowered women with whom you have already been working with! love the logo and the motto "Cambiando la cara de los medios una chica a la vez" :)

Photo of Vicki Hammarstedt

Gracias Daniela,
Sí, I will add the information you've requested.