Joseph Ramos: "Foundations can experiment and try new ways to approach all groups that have greater difficulties in our society"

December 5, 2018
Communications Colunga Foundation

The Vice President of the National Productivity Commission, professor and former dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Chile analyzes the place of the Colunga Foundation in civil society and the role of innovation in the social challenges of the country.

Photographer: Juan Carlos Recabal - Chilean Mining

How has your relationship with Colunga been?

We have an innovative program at the University of Chile that seeks to demonstrate that young people, in the vast majority, if they had a quality, basic and middle education, could enter a first-class university. To do this, we devised a program for young people of technical-professional education (the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups) and we chose young people at the end of the second half of nine high schools in the Metropolitan Region. For two years they are with us, ten hours a week, in math and language classes, to replace all the gaps and deficiencies they have.

It's an intensive training ...

The program of the Talent Development School It has been very successful so far. We started five years ago and there are groups already in third year of university. 85% entered the Catholic University, Chile and Usach. So, it's really remarkable. Colunga has helped us in the last two years with 18% of the expense. We are aware that this can not be in perpetuity and we just want that eventually this is something that the municipalities themselves promote and finance.

And what is the role that Colunga should fulfill in civil society?

Beyond us, Colunga is trying to find innovative projects, initiatives that can be replicated and eventually be part of public policy, but which in its pilot phase is very expensive for the tax authorities to experience. I think that for Colunga that is his main role. Show what things are possible, that is, experience and that they turn out well.

I was very pleased when I went to visit them. It has a HUB with social innovators that interact with each other and that impressed me. But we also have to recognize that Colunga is a drop. All the foundations in Chile are a few drops. This is not a country characterized by its philanthropy, we are in diapers in that aspect.

Photo: amchamchile.cl

If you had to say what the essence of Colunga is, how would you define it?

I would say that Colunga is about focusing on social innovations, and putting together, believing a lot in networks. That is a bet they have made, a valuable bet. That they are all together there, they feed back. Besides, you do not feel alone in the world ... I think that helps, right? That always helps, because we all get discouraged.

And why innovate socially? What kind of changes can occur if one invests in these social innovations?

Well, I believe that our project is an innovation in the sense of answering the question, "is it possible or not possible?". When the microcredit was introduced, there were already experiences in Pakistan, but in Chile, good, the microcredit could be ... Can an enterprise help families to emerge? It was not known. At that time I worked at the Fundación Trabajo para un Hermano, which was one of the first to start micro-credits, and the idea was clear to us. The Foundation could at most give 1,000 microcredits a year. That is nothing. But if it was successful, we wanted the bank to enter. I understand that Banco Estado has about 100,000 loans to microentrepreneurs at this time. Then the overcrowding will never be done by the foundations. But, in general, the system has a hard time experimenting, and I believe that this is the focal point of foundations. Foundations can experiment and try new ways to approach all the groups that have the most difficulties in our society.

Where civil society should go. Do you have a look?

The topic that I would privilege is the educational theme, and in all areas. And because? Because it is from the extreme left, whether from Homeland and Freedom or from the MIR, everyone agrees that education is a powerful tool. That is the challenge: the quality of education. Pre-school education, kindergartens, especially for the most vulnerable populations.

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