Peter Cook—StartingBloc Application, BOS ’12 How will you bring your experience and knowledge to enrich the StartingBloc network? ◦ While working in international development projects in Ecuador, I have had a wide array of experiences, professional and personal, that have influenced me, shaped me, and informed my career choice and interests. ◦ Ecuador is a diverse country. I have worked in the mountainous region with highland farmers, the Amazonian jungle with indigenous women, and the coastal lowlands with Afro- Ecuadorians.
Indigenous Shuar women’sgroup learn market strategies In one project, I worked with a women’s group in writing a marketing plan for exotic tubers that are traditionally grown for subsistence purposes only The project leveraged traditional products to incentivize the women to practice environmentally sustainable growing techniques
TRADITIONS MERGEDWITH MARKET A shuar woman singing a traditional chant to the fertility goddess.TECHNIQUES A video of this was shown to prospective buyers and was instrumental in displaying how the customs of the Shuar can be taken into account in a market-driven project. Photo by Peter Cook, Morona Santiago Province, Ecuador, 2011.
Afro-Ecuadorian CocoaFarmers I also worked in coastal Ecuador with a cocoa farmers’ cooperative, on organizational strategy and in helping export the environmentally-friendly cocoa product. Once again, we used an approach that focused on an asset the local people already knew and worked with— cocoa. Sustainable agroforestry techniques were implemented not only as conservation practices, but as a means for farmers to increase production yields, stressing an economic incentive for the farmers.
Highland Indigenous farmers In another project, I worked at impact monitoring and evaluation, and visited farmers’ cooperatives in the Andean highlands. In my work evaluating the success of different projects, I came to realize that those projects that are successful are those that leverage assets that the people already have—products, goods and services that already have a cultural value for the people themselves. In this photo, an indigenous man shows me his farm full of Andean lettuce varieties that are unique to the region, and that play a role in his traditions.
Working with many different groups of people in Ecuador, I have learned not only to appreciate cultural diversity, but to understand that each group will have its own assets, and thatPeter Cook (center), with group of Afro- these assets needEcuadorian cocoa farmers after giving apresentation. to be understood to effectively engage potential project beneficiaries.
My Vision At StartingBloc, I want to share with others how my experiences in diverse settings in Ecuador have informed my vision and interest in social enterprise I believe that long-term livelihood opportunities for the rural poor are inextricably linked to environmental stewardship. Environmental conservation cannot be done without engaging the rural poor. Capitalize on local products, goods and services that may have market potential in the developed world, and you have a recipe for success, involving both profit, and a social/environmental bottom line in the target country.
What I can learn; what I canteach My experiences have been concentrated mainly in Latin America. I am eager to learn firsthand about similar approaches to poverty reduction and conservation in other areas of the world. I have put into practice some concepts of social innovation in Ecuador. But Ecuador is just one country. Who else out there can tell me about social innovation projects in other regions of the world? Who can team up with me to develop innovative solutions with a broader global impact, using strategies that I have learned in my field work, and ideas that others have learned in theirs? I think StartingBloc can help me to answer those questions.