CVC’s Social Entrepreneurship Accelarator (SEA) Change Initiative staged a workshop on Saturday July 17, 2021 in Santo Domingo for the 14 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) applying for technical assistance, mentoring and seed funding for a variety of social enterprise initiatives. During the workshop, each CBO had an opportunity to present their initiative.
For some organisations like the La Red Nacional de Jóvenes Viviendo Con VIH/SIDA, REDNAJCER, a national network of young people living with HIV in the Dominican Republic, the presentation consisted of an existing social enterprise that is already generating income for the organisation. In the case of REDNAJCER, they began in 2015 with a small production plant of cleaning products. REDNAJCER President Felix Reyes says this served two functions, “One it provided employment opportunities for young persons living with HIV, and two it raised funds for REDNAJCER that could then be used to fund the organisations work with the HIV positive community.” Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic provided a boost to RENAJCER’s company, with a dramatic increase in sales as cleaning products and disinfectants became hot commodities.
Other organisations presented their ideas for a new social enterprise initiative they were interested in developing a sound business plan for, and get support in testing the market for such an initiative. Fundacion Sigue Mis Pasos (Follow in My footsteps Foundation) works with orphans in the Dominican Republic and the oragnization’s president says funding is hard to come by. “The funding reality in the Dominican Republic is becoming increasingly challenging for small CBOs like Fundacion Sigue Mis Pasos (Follow in My footsteps Foundation). We work with vulnerable children and adolescents who are placed in orphanages because their parents have passed away or are no longer able to provide for them for a variety of reasons. These homes are for the most part privately run institutions who receive very little funding from the State. Mobilization of resources and donations for these homes is a critical part of the work that we do. We currently have an online store through which we support local producers and artisans, with all profits from online sales going to fund the work of the foundation. We want to take this to the next level and establish a physical store in the heart of the historic colonial zone, where we can tap in to the tourism market as well,” said Elinelsy Castillo.
Meanwhile Head of Monitoring and Evaluation and Reasearch at CVC Dr. John Waters said the weekend workshop was inspirational. “We listened to 14 different existing, and promising initiatives, from CBOs in the Dominican Republic, who were determined not to stand by and watch their services disappear due to lack of funding. These are pioneer organisations which have pledged to take back control, and secure their future,” said Dr. Waters. SEA Change Consultant Alan Fernandez, who used to run a small business development programme for the Dominican Government agreed saying, “we have lots of good material here in the room, I am excited to be part of such a vibrant initiative.”
CVC’s Social Enterprise Accelerator (SEA) Change Initiative is a program developed by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), designed for Community Based Organisations. It’s composed of two stages: i) the incubation of social venture ideas and staff training, and ii) the acceleration of ongoing and new projects. It intends to teach CBOs about enterprises as means of funding social goals and achieving self-sustainability for community members.