The most insane thing happened to me, something that hasn’t happened to me in 6 months – I ran into someone I knew on the street! And in Granada, Nicaragua nonetheless. I’m starting to understand why I keep hearing “Everybody knows everybody here” comments.
I ran into someone I had met networking the week prior, she was with her boss Evan Durand of The Pulsera Project. The Pulsera Project is a textbook social enterprise – they sell pulseras (woven bracelets) made by Nicaraguan artisans, their purpose is to provide employment and awareness. I wanted to learn more about what entrepreneurship looked like to Evan and the Pulsera project, and he was kind enough to sit down with me and share some of his thoughts.
We discussed what the expatriate culture is like, and how foreigners who come to build their businesses in Nicaragua can both help and harm the economy and environment (both physical and social). It reminded me of a conversation I had with the woman who owned my apartment building. Hailing from the United States, she recognized that while her business in Granada brings tourists and therefore drives local prices up, she believes that by providing locals well paid jobs with opportunities to learn English, she is doing more good than she could ever do harm.
When I spoke to Evan about what entrepreneurship looked like in Nicaragua he had a very interesting answer. Although the outside world might be calling it something different, entrepreneurship has existed for quite some time, and it exists in the form of cooperatives. Women (and men) working together to offset cost, and create artisanal products. While I had heard about and seen cooperatives working with FINCA earlier in my travels, these cooperatives felt different. It seemed as if their reach, and their market was greater than that of those in Uganda. With tourism becoming an integral part of Nicaragua’s economy, the idea that cooperatives are selling their products to expats, among many, again makes me question what kind of an impact, positive or negative, foreigners can have. I’m very much looking forward to exploring that in the final two months of my fellowship.