Martha Montes lives one of the poorest neighborhoods of Cartagena, Colombia. She has a small, two room house with a cement slab floor where 5 people live and in the back she has a small garden. She had been part of the 18% of Cartagena’s unemployed poor until the Clinton Foundation identified her as a potential collaborator to serve the blossoming tourism business. How, exactly, could Martha plug into one of the greatest booms in Cartagena’s history? She is part of an innovative, collective effort spearheaded by the Clinton Foundation to develop local supply chains for many products central to the growing hospitality industry, such as fish, textiles, herbs and candies.
While living in Cartagena this spring, I had the pleasure of learning more about this effort and how it puts FSG’s Collective Impact thinking into practice. As many of you know, we believe Collective Impact depends on five components: a common agenda, a shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication among stakeholders, and a backbone organization to support the effort.
Common Agenda: The Clinton Foundation takes a private sector approach to development in Colombia and in this case partners with the Government of Colombia, USAID, the National Hotel Association of Colombia, local NGOs focused on microenterprise growth, local technical assistance providers and top tier hotels to build several supply chains from scratch. There is a shared recognition that without strong capacity building to improve quality and quantity of products, local industry will be excluded from the growth in tourism and the spoils will go to the typical industry giants based in Bogota. The public and private partners in this effort recognize the importance of seizing the moment to ensure that Cartegenian businesses are ready to participate in this competitive industry and they have agreed to partner in pursuit of this goal.
Shared Measurement System and Continuous Communication: The ultimate measure of success for this effort is sales. The Clinton Foundation and its partners want to see the hotels purchasing more and more of their supplies (herbs, confections, fish, textiles, etc.) from microenterprises in Cartagena. As a result, orders are tracked on a daily basis and results are shared weekly with stakeholders, including the hotels. The data that is shared is so powerful, that it has created a sense of competition where hotel managers receive the weekly updates and chide their purchasing managers to increase their orders so that they can “beat” their competition in sourcing from these local businesses.
Mutually Reinforcing Activities and a Backbone organization: Participants in this effort bring unique skills and take on specific responsibilities. The National Hotel Association helped to launch the effort and act as a central voice regarding the needs of hotels with respect to requirements for quality and standardization in products. USAID and the Government of Colombia provided financial and strategic support for the program. The six largest hotels in Cartagena signed on to this effort and committed to sharing information about product requirements and to eventually buying 20% of their products from local producers. Local foundations and technical providers are the liaisons with the microenterprise owners, delivering the knowledge and practice to strengthen the quality and quantity of relevant products. The Clinton Foundation funds the technical assistance providers, gathers data and provides the backbone services to the effort, troubleshooting issues that arise, facilitating discussions and issue resolution with hotels, expanding the outreach to new “industries” and keeping the flow of data open and transparent across stakeholders.
Martha’s patio garden is carefully divided among her crops. There are signs illustrating sanitary techniques, planting schedules and crop details. She has a separate area for composting and has cordoned off her garden from her family’s collection of pets. She beams with pride over her business and what it means for improving her family’s conditions as she can now depend on a steady stream of income from reliable customers. She embodies the kind of impact that we hope large, complex systems can eventually influence through a Collective Impact approach and the Clinton Foundation’s efforts in Cartagena represent a model that could be replicated all over the world. If you can imagine another scenario where this model could help drive economic growth among the poor, let us know and we can help make it happen!