Building Social Enterprise Capacity Among Women-Focused NGOs in Guatemala
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are at the forefront of combating female oppression in Guatemala and have previously survived on their ability to secure grants. With the global recession, it has become increasingly evident that success of NGOs rests on their ability to generate revenue-producing social enterprises. As such, the overarching research question explored in this paper is “What does social enterprise look like within women-focused NGOs in Guatemala?”
Exploratory research was carried out using semi-structured interviewing with NGO leaders in Western Highlands, Guatemala during a three-week period in June 2012. IRB approval was granted by the authors’ educational institution.
The organization was the unit of analysis. The sampling frame was constructed from the on-line, Guatemalan nonprofit directory called WeGuatemala. From the 24 women-focused NGOs, 13 were eliminated due to geographic boundaries. Of the eleven remaining NGOs, two were eliminated because they were medical clinics. Of the nine remaining, the author interviewed seven NGO leaders.
Two interviews were in Spanish using a translator while the other five interviews were in English. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using MAXQDA 11 software. Content analysis identified the following themes: funding diversification, environmental & cultural context, and increasing organizational capacity.
Five of the seven NGOs identified as engaging in social enterprise alongside providing programs and services to indigenous girls and women. The organizations identified diversifying funding sources as their chief goal over the last five years as traditional revenue streams have become smaller.
Tourists are drawn to Guatemala for its geography, climate, and textiles. In addition to its moderate climate and terrain of volcanoes and mountains, indigenous women have made the country famous with their traditional weaving in which they create colorful garments filled with rich symbolism. Therefore, NGOs have capitalized on these existing assets to build social enterprises such as promoting organized volunteer tourism, college service learning opportunities, or ecotourism.
Organizations identified social enterprise being a method to increasing organizational capacity. For four of the five organizations, increasing organizational capacity included broadening the NGOs target system to include awareness and education. Capacity building further enhanced NGO development as they increased their business and social network.
Conclusions and Implications
Social innovation is critical to the sustainability of NGOs. Chief outcome of this study identified social enterprises result from diversifying funding sources. Practice implications are broad for social work in terms of remembering to start where the client is meaning examine the organization within its environmental context to generate social innovation promoting environmental and cultural strengths of the region.
Social work must become comfortable with generating revenues to sustain its programs. Thus, social work education needs to develop curriculum that promotes social enterprise as a viable method to building sustainability in organizations. Many NGOs are small businesses and as such can benefit from policy to promote innovation in non-profit settings. Future research needs to compare various-size NGOs with social enterprise endeavors as well as factors contributing to organizational success in social innovation among NGOs. Longitudinal studies are required to measure impact and sustained organizational success.