This week I had the opportunity to attend an event of Iniciativa Mexico (iMx). iMx started as a joint project of the most important media companies in Mexico seeking to promote and support citizen initiatives with true social impact. The project was launched towards the celebration of the bicentennary of the Mexican independence and the centennary of the Mexican revolution. It was seen as a way to bring up the best of Mexicans in face of the raising violence that prevailed in the country.
In 2010 and 2011 they received a total of 104,007 idea and project applications. About 100 projects passed to a second round and, after being evaluated by Ashoka, each year about $116 MMx were distributed among the selected projects. The finalists of iMx were awarded capital to invest in their operations. In addition, they were provided with periodic training to help them improve the management and operations of their organizations.
Being among so many citizens that are in the field working hard to generate a positive change in their communities was a humbling experience for me. They are common mexicans with an outstanding empathy for what happens around them. I also had the opportunity to learn about the many challenges they face to keep their organizations going. Among them, the most commonly mentioned were resistance to change and economic strugle.
Even though the program was launched for all types of initiatives (for-profit and not-for-profit), I was surprised to see so many not-for-profit. Indeed only about 1 in 10 were for-profit organizations. As I was talking to a few of the NGOs that seemed to be able to generate a viable business model, they all were quite interested and, at the same time, afraid about the uncertainties faced when operating under a for-profit model. Moreover, I perceived in them the conflict between doing good and being profitable. In other parts of the world we´ve seen how some well known companies have struggled making this decision and others have opted for a hybrid model to better achieve their altruistic goals.
What´s the best approach for organizations is there to be determined by each. In the mean time, in the mexican social environment, the existence of Bcorporations and L3C (low-profit limited liability company)s represents an opportunity for making money, attracting investors and addressing social issues that probably will receive much attention in the coming years.
Let´s see how well accepted these new models are and whether they can see the same or better growth compared to what NGOs saw in Mexico in the 80´s and 90´s. Right now only about 5% of mexican citizens participate in non for profit organizations, which is a very low rate compared to the 21% of participation seen overall in Latino America(1). The major causes seem to be related to a very poor civic culture supported by lack of mechanisms to make laws easy to implement (2).
(1)(2) Source: DIAGNÓSTICO DE LA SITUACIÓN DE LOS ACTORESSOCIALES QUE PROMUEVEN EL DESARROLLO SOCIAL. SEDESOL 2009. Mexican Government.