Page 1

2012 Opportunities for peace and development

Annual Report

Dear friends: It is with great pleasure that I write this short message to share with you the work that Ahmsa has carried out this year in Colombia. My name is Milton Garzon and I am currently the Program Director in Bogota/Soacha.

“In my position, I have committed myself to changing not just my life but the lives of others, including those of my children, to develop and bring peace As some of our supporters know, I owe much of the life I have now to to my community.”

many factors – above all to Ahmsa and my friendship with our founder, Matthew Alexander. When I first joined Ahmsa over six years ago, I had lost nearly everything, including my family and over thirty friends, to violence and drugs in my community. I refused to let the same thing happen to me. As a beneficiary of an entrepreneurship program, I put myself on a positive life path that took me away from the gangs, violence, and drugs. Thanks to Ahmsa, I’ve acquired the tools that have enabled me to be successful.

However, I can’t say that I’ve completely escaped my dark history. The truth is that I’m more involved with the Colombian reality than ever, since I continue living and working in the same slum where I grew up. In my position, I have committed myself to changing not just my life but the lives of others, including those of my children, to develop and bring peace to my community. I have an incredible team of Colombians and foreigners who are committed to the promotion of human dignity and poverty alleviation through entrepreneurship and innovation in Colombia’s most marginalized communities. As you can read in this report, Ahmsa has carried out a great deal in 2012. We have provided over 60 hours of capacity building to 50 community members and their families in Soacha (71% women) on designing business plans and strategies. We have institutionalized learning in urban agriculture so community members can develop individual and community gardens. We’ve invested more than $21,000 in seed capital since 2010. The percentage increase of the monthly earnings of Ahmsa’s beneficiaries is still 95 percent. We have worked with students and university leaders to launch a TED Talk to highlight successful stories of entrepreneurship, an event that Ahmsa’s entrepreneurs were fundamental in organizing.

Ahmsa is generating change in the lives of people – people who were born in very dangerous situations, like mine, and who are looking for a positive change. I am proof that this type of intervention is possible. However, this change would not have been impossible if it weren’t for our supporters. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people and institutions that have supported Ahmsa during its 9 years of existence. I can assure you that 2012 will be another incredible year for Ahmsa, opening doorways and opportunities to many people who have always thought that the road towards progress was permanently closed. That’s why we are committing ourselves once again to generate the changes that are vital not just for our society, but for the Latin American region. In admiration,

Milton Garzón Programs Director Bogotá/Soacha

Opportunities for peace and development

History Disillusioned with traditional charity efforts and inspired by the creativity and resilience of his friends living amidst poverty and conflict, 26-year old Ahmsa founder Matthew Alexander began to envision a model for harnessing entrepreneurship and innovation in the slums of Colombia. He shared his idea with others on the streets of Bogotá and in the coffee shops of Seattle, and in the spring of 2004 Ahmsa was born. Ahmsa’s original team immediately went to work building a framework designed to restore dignity, community and humility to the field of humanitarian and development work. IIn the early years, Ahmsa made up for what it lacked in resources with dedication and diligence. With time, its efforts started to show unprecedented results in the communities of Colombia. Today Ahmsa works alongside hundreds of entrepreneurs as they pursue new opportunities for their families and communities.

What is Ahmsa? The word Ahmsa means “to be born” in the Chibcha language of the Muisca people, the original inhabitants of the land that is now Bogotá, Colombia. The Muisca people were organized under a union of states known as the Muisca Confederation and were one of the most politically advanced civilizations in the world. As opposed to other indigenous groups in the Americas, such as the Incas and Aztecs, the Muiscas were not an Empire because they did not seek to conquer other ethnic groups. The Muisca Confederation was not a Kingdom either, for it exercised a decentralized form of governance and had no absolute monarch. The Chibcha language was a spoken language with no written alphabet or texts. The language was banned by King Charles III of Spain on May, 10, 1770 in an effort to “de-indigenize” the population. Today, the Chibcha language is officially extinct. Ahmsa’s name is a tribute to the original inhabitants of the land that inspired the organization’s birth and mission.

Mission Ahmsa’s mission is to alleviate poverty and promote dignity by fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in marginalized communities.

Objectives Contribute to poverty solutions that are environmentally sustainable and community driven. Create socioeconomic opportunities for people disproportionately affected by poverty and violence, such as refugees, internally displaced

persons, former child soldiers, disabled persons, ethnic minorities, women, at-risk youth and people living in extreme poverty.

Work in collaboration with stakeholders at the local, national, and international levels to provide context-specific, resource-efficient services. Build inclusive communities where all can live with dignity.

To date Ahmsa has increased the average income of its beneficiaries by 95%, improving the lives of more than 210 entrepreneurs and improving the quality of life of 2,000 people in 2012.



Ahmsa changes the lives of 34 families through urban agriculture Ahmsa sees urban agriculture as a way to promote sustainability in entrepreneurship. Through the project “Seeds of Change,” in partnership with Mercy Corps, Ahmsa utilized urban agriculture as a way to help entrepreneurs meet their basic needs. On one hand, urban agriculture contributes to security, sovereignty, and food independence. On the other, it provides a space for the entrepreneurs so they can spend time on developing improvements and innovating. This project included capacity building through technical workshops, accompaniment, and supervision, which resulted in the creation of 20 gardens that produce goods such as lettuce, chard, carrots, strawberries, and potatoes.

Ahmsa teams up with the University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano to launch a TED Talk Ahmsa connected its entrepreneurs with students from the Industrial Design Program of the University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano through co-creational workshops to launch the TED Talk, TEDxLaCabrera. Ahmsa’s inclusive enterprises, EcoInnovo, Concazucoop, and Initium Grafic, formed part of five workshops with students, professors, and alumni from the university to design all of the materials necessary for the event, including agendas, programs, backpacks that convert into small coin purses, and the event scenery. This was a highly creative space that strengthened the capacities of the entrepreneurs by exposing them to some of the brightest minds in Colombian design. The project also resulted in business and revenue for the inclusive enterprises.

Ahmsa strengthens new alliances with key partners Ahmsa has developed its partnerships with the organizations Mercy Corps, Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta Abogados, and Kounkuey Design Initiative. Ahmsa worked with Mercy Corps through a grant to fund the “Seeds of Change” project, benefiting approximately 34 families from the Cazuca Highlands. Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta, the most prestigious law firm in Colombia, continues to offer pro bono legal services to Ahmsa and its entrepreneurs. The lawyers of GPZ commit at least 150 hours per month to pro bono work in vulnerable communities. Lastly, Kounkuey Design Initiative is an NGO that will collaborate with Ahmsa to construct the LITE House, the first center for learning, innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship in marginalized communities in Colombia.

Matthew Alexander, Founder and President of Ahmsa, selected as an emerging social innovator by American Express and Ashoka Matthew was selected as one of 15 emerging innovators who participated in the American Express Emerging Innovators Boot Camp in New York City in June 2012.

Ahmsa trains its team and volunteers in the Canvas Business Model As part of the alliance between Ahmsa and Ventures, both organizations met in October 2012 to carry out a day of training on the Canvas business model. The training was led by Franz Campo, entrepreneurship consultant for Ventures, who forms part of Ahmsa’s advisory board. At the meeting, participants discussed how to implement the model developed by Alexander Osterwalder in the entrepreneurial ecosystem known as the base of the pyramid.

Med@red reopens with new equipment and services after a generous donation This inclusive enterprise, supported by Ahmsa, will reopen its doors in December 2012. Not just an internet cafĂŠ, Meg@red will serve as a techo-cultural center. This was made possible thanks to the donation of $1,500 by Michael Barrett, a thirty-year-old from Australia who fundraised for Ahmsa through a trip along the Mississippi River. This enterprise, led by youth, hopes to offer new services to the community, including computer literacy and facilitating access to new technologies.

Programs and



Ahmsa, along with its strategic partners Mercy Corps and Ventures, implemented the project “Seeds of Change” to develop a local marginalized community. The project, which ran from March to October 2012, sought to create opportunities for the community of Villa Esperanza El Barreno, located in commune 4 of Soacha. This initiative was implemented in a difficult geographical context that is highly prone to landslides. One of the first instances of landslides covered approximately two square blocks of land. Unfortunately, landslides continued through 2011 with more devastating impact. On top of this, the government of Villa Esperanza El Barreno has evacuated nearly 80 families, who are now paying rent in other sectors of Soacha and living in situations that are more prone to disaster than where they were previously living. The inhabitants of El Barreno fear that this is their fate and many refuse to leave their homes despite the imminent threat of landslides. It is estimated that there are about 100 families living in the area. They depend mainly on internal commerce, including groceries, miscellaneous goods, recycled goods, and scrap yards. It is in this context that the project “Seeds of Change” emerged. This initiative has provided the tools to allow the community to manage risk and confront their food and economic challenges. To achieve this, the project had three areas of action. The first was acquiring knowledge, skills, and experience through capacity building in urban agriculture to improve food security. This involved 8 workshops and 30 hours of training. Workshops covered topics like food autonomy and security, garden design, planting and transplanting, and collecting rainwater, among others. The second component developed entrepreneurial skills and innovative capacities through training in improved business models. These trainings included four workshops on managing money, creating business plans, developing business prototypes, and risk control. Finally, the last component tackled the issue of risk management and involved training the community in the prevention and management of risk in the case of landslides. Through 11 workshops and 30 hours of training, the residents of Villa Esperanza El Barreno learned how to prepare themselves to respond efficiently to a future disaster. This work took place over the course of 8 months. It was an example of how Ahmsa carries out community work within marginalized communities to construct opportunities for peace and development for all.

Microcredits are small loans, the idea of which is to provide an alternative to help provide the seed capital to those who are living in extreme poverty. The objective is to help marginalized populations participate in a program that is more proportional to their income and to disconnect them from the so-called “Drop – Drop” phenomenon. This is merely subjecting the population to work for the welfare of owners and does not promote the development of their communities and families. The microcredit program maintains the philosophy of supporting productive family groups to help them realize their dreams, goals, or business ideas. In 2012, 40 microcredits have been distributed in Commune 6 of the Florida Highlands – El Manzano. Among these businesses include breeders, small shops, traders, and transportation within slums. To date the microcredit program has dispersed 254 loans to entrepreneurs from the slums.


Stories of


As an entrepreneur and owner of the company Initium Grafic, Jhon Jairu Bucuru spoke with the Ahmsa team about his new business, his goals, and his intention to transform the life of the youth of his community while constructing opportunities for peace and development.

Ahmsa: How long have you decided to be an entrepreneur and what prompted you to start your own business? Jhon Bucuru: We decided to create the company Initium Grafic when I felt the need to prove that I was capable. I realized I was good at what I did at my old job – better than what my employer gave me credit for. At that point I decided to risk it all, and my brother and I have been firm to the end, never looking back, even though this was a hard decision to make with no money to start. It was on February 18, 2011 that we first came up with the idea, and it was May 31, 2012 when we produced our first agenda book. A: What is your business? JB: We work in printing and graphic arts with recycled materials. We create agendas, restore texts and photographs, produce photomontages, aid organizations with publicity, and print cards. Our current strength is making agendas. A: What is your value-added? JB: We offer products made entirely by hand with recycled materials, innovative design, and love for what we do. A: How are you creating development opportunities for your community with your venture? JB: I strongly believe that with support we can develop youth and teach them to avoid the vices and other problems that are prevalent in the community. We are currently training numerous youth in design and photography to raise awareness and give them another life vision.

A: What support have you received from Ahmsa? JB: The support has been special, including materials like cutting tables, microcredit to improve my enterprise, customers, and most importantly, motivation to move forward and not look back. That is the best support, as well as having customers. A: What kind of support could a volunteer lend to enhance your professional work? JB: The critical support we need is guidance in creating a business plan, which would be a fundamental step for Initium Grafic. We would also like to open possibilities to sell our work and share our ideas at fairs and events in the city. Step by step will achieve our larger goal: Initium Grafic and Ahmsa developing the Cazuca Highlands.

Meg@Red wants to open with strength this time Nelson Obando, Manager of Meg@Red, share the story of Meg@Red. Some time ago, a group of young adults decided to leave the world of drugs and limited employment opportunities in order to develop themselves into competitive job candidates and upstanding members of society, using self-improvement as the key to accomplish this. More than four years ago, 50 at-risk youth, on the brink of getting involved in drugs and being unemployed, decided to participate in an entrepreneurship program that Ahmsa convened. We would form part of a space where negative thoughts and negative coexistence would be erased completely to make way for the positive thinking associated with being an entrepreneur. This idea was one of the best that could have entered anyone’s head since many opportunities depended on it. The first step began with understanding the society in which drugs, abuse, violence, wrongful deaths, and abandonment thrived. There we recognized the social realities and learned how to face them without having to use weapons and injustice to win. The group chose some of the many initiatives that had applied to the entrepreneurship program, depending on the opinions of each young person involved. We were able to choose between “Confecciones” (“Textiles”) and Meg@Red. Next we were trained to learn some basic aspects about being an Entrepreneur, including: entrepreneurship and business strategies, developing a business plan, economic solidarity, client service, sales and marketing. All these courses were certified by a local university (el SENA) with the support of Ahmsa. At this point in the process, the majority of the youth dropped out of the program – about 30 participants. Perhaps it was because it was one of the most time-consuming steps and required the most dedication. However, this was the most important step for us in achieving our goal. The third step was the business plan. It is here that we started to plan strategies for competing in the market, seeking seed capital, receiving donations with the help of Ahmsa, which managed the funds. We also conducted market research and looked for potential buyers for services related to internet, printing, copying, scanning, basic consulting on computer use and internet navigation, computer projects, and research.

The fourth step and the most awaited was the launch of Meg@Red as a business. It was in that moment that we evaluated everything we learned. Ten youth would lead the business, dividing our shifts to work there. Two years passed as a business and in this period we learned the difficulty involved in running a stable business. It wasn’t easy and required much more strength than we had expected. These two years gave us many experiences, good and bad, but at the end of the day it provided opportunities that continued to shape us as entrepreneurs who will not let our dreams die – dreams of a new business and the transformation of our community.

Impact and


20 gardens planted

30 volunteers in the ďŹ eld supporting entrepreneurs

30 people trained in risk management

40 microcredit loans given

50 entrepreneurs received training in business growth

120 entrepreneurs supported by Ahmsa’s services

Revenue 2011 Donations USD$25,839

Contributions USD$5,000

Others USD$7,861

Total USD$38,700

Expenses 2011 Programs USD$29,828.84

Operations USD$1,190.21

Fundraising USD$539.45

Total USD$31,558.50

Revenue 2012 Revenues as of October 31, 2012

Organizations/Enterprises Individual USD$21,415.75 USD$21,485.82

Incomes for services USD$2,057.14

Total USD$44,958.71

Supporters Alianza Social Uniandina

Developing Minds Foundation


Atlas Service Corps

Gomez-Pinzon Zuleta Abogados

Network For Good

BP Fabric of America Fund

Kounkuey Design Initiative

Prism Hotels

Casey Charitable Matching


Somos Mรกs

Chase Community Giving

Just Cauz


Club Rotario Internacional

La Arenera

Universidad de Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano

Comision Fulbright Colombia

McCarty Family Foundation Universidad de Los Andes Mercy Corps Ventures

Board of Directors 2012 Matthew Alexander, President Matthew is finishing a Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on social entrepreneurship at Harvard University. In addition to his current role at Ahmsa, he is the Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Program at Mercy Corps.

Andrea Parra Andrea Parra is the Director of PAIS, the Action Program for Equality and Social Inclusion, a human rights clinic developed through the University of the Andes in Bogotá

Caroline McDermott Caroline worked as a member of the field staff with Ahmsa in Bogota in 2010. Now, she works at the Taproot Foundation in San Francisco, where she consults for companies setting up pro bono programs.

Jon Balcom Jon Balcom has worked with Ahmsa since 2003. Currently he is lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.

Local team 2012 Milton Garzon, Director of Programs for Bogotá/Soacha Expert in microcredit and community development. In little time, he developed into one of the most important community leaders in Colombia, winning awards from the United States Embassy and the United Nations.

Mario Varon, Director of Operations Mechanical Engineer with an emphasis in Industrial Design from the University of the Andes, Bogotá. Mario has diverse experience in the social and private sector, including entrepreneurship, social innovation, and product development with communities at the base of the pyramid.

Paulette Franco, Entrepreneurship Coordinator Economist with an emphasis on socioeconomic analysis of development economics. Paulette provides analytical consulting regarding the sectors that Ahmsa serves.

Sebastián Chávez, Social Innovation Coordinator Industrial Designer from the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University of Bogotá. He is a specialist in co-creation methodologies based in design-thinking and applied to entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid. Sebastián works in the management and coordination of social innovation projects at Ahmsa.

Samara Casallas, Communications Coordinator.

Michael Solis, Director of Development

Social Communications professional with an emphasis in education from the University of Santo Tomás. Samara specializes in managing social networks, forming and developing communications processes in community and institutional spaces.

Masters in International Human Rights and Bachelors in International Relations and Public Policy at Princeton. Michael develops and opens the presence of Ahmsa’s programs in Colombia, with an emphasis in fundraising and forming local and international partnerships.

Support our work Thanks to the people who believed in the potential of entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid, Ahmsa has transformed into a multi-faceted NGO that empowers hundreds of men, women, and youth per year. Upon offering a donation to Ahmsa, you can have a great impact on our capacity to provide more support to the entrepreneurs of marginalized communities of Colombia. Your support is only the start. Each donation frees marginalized entrepreneurs from the poverty trap and pathways to gang participation, violence, and drugs. The challenges that our beneficiaries face are not new, nor are they easy to solve. Nonetheless, Ahmsa exists to develop communities of entrepreneurs that are equipped with the necessary tools to make a difference. We invite you to be part of the change. Donations can be made online on our webpage.

Donate To donate by mail in the United States: Please include your name, address, phone number, and email address and send that information by mail with your credit card information or a check made to “Ahmsa” at the following address: Ahmsa 2039 34th Ave. S. Seattle, WA 98144 USA All donations to Ahmsa are tax deductible in the United States under Ahmsa’s status as a 501(c)3. In Colombia, you can donate according to the following information: Citibank, Cuenta corriente 1000859822 Asociación Ahmsa Colombia After making your transfer, please send an email to to confirm your donation and generate your certificate. If you have any questions, contact us at: +(001) 206.351.2645 en EE.UU o +(571) 6912122 extension 102 in Colombia.