Inside USD

USD Graduates, Staff Create Business With Social Purpose

Monday, May 10, 2010

Socialbiz-photoPaloma wants to set up a fund to support indigenous people of Guatemala. Alejandra and Takeo want to help finance businesses for people who have been displaced. Chris is part of a project already in place to help fund the local community of San Diego through microloans with the hopes of turning an idea into a business.

These are graduates and staff of USD who have studied social entrepreneurship and microloans in order to give people from all over the world a little hope in becoming self-sufficient. A panel of graduates, staff, and students of USD met on May 6 to discuss their individual projects that engage in social entrepreneurship and microloans. The excitement at such projects was apparent as ideas were shared and discussed — each with the goal of giving an underrepresented part of a community a chance to grow and succeed.

Paloma Patterson ’09, a graduate of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management master’s program through SOLES, traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, to work with Fundacion Nahual, an organization that teaches community members of indigenous people how to form community development councils and how to use them effectively. Skills such as leadership development, cultural preservation, education and advocacy for indigenous people of Guatemala are studied, implemented and taught.

“Our hopes are to change policy at the government level to help indigenous people,” Patterson said. With that in mind, Patterson has started Friends of Fundacion Nahual through the International Community Foundation, based in San Diego. Through fundraisers and donations to Friends of Fundacion Nuhal Patterson hopes to assist the indigenous people of Guatemala with creating a larger voice in their community. Her goal is to raise $5,000, which is the minimum required to start such a fund. To date, $3,500 has been raised. “The challenge is creating a continuous revenue string after $5,000 is reached,” she said. “But we’ve almost reached our goal.”

Alejandra Ojeda-Beck ’08 and Takeo Kuwabara ’09, both graduates of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, had displaced people in mind when they created their micro-loan system. Through microlending, classroom, start-up and targeted-grant projects, these alumni hope to assist displaced people with their first loans.

To get things started, Ojeda-Beck and Kuwabara have created a detailed micro-loan system — with a website and blog included — to entice and keep investors. The project is called Muhuy, and the website will contain a blog to allow investors see how their money helps those who they’ve chosen to assist.

And along the same lines within Southern California’s own community, Chris Nayve, associate director of USD’s Center for Community Service-Learning, has partnered with other local organizations to create La MUVA Coalition Fund. La MUVA is committed to supporting microfinance and microenterprise efforts in San Diego County. Through La MUVA, residents of San Diego are offered a $250 loan to help start a business. A mandatory savings is already part of the loan, so borrowers have additional funds left over once their loan has been repaid. Nayve said this kind of micro-loan system works.

Elena Cruz, manager of La Maestra and a partner of La MUVA has about 300 active loans in the local community. “The youngest with a loan is 14,” said Cruz. “And the oldest is 84.” Each has their own unique business in mind, from creating purses to selling flowers to sewing garments. Residents have a clear idea in mind and programs such as La MUVA make those dreams a reality.

To those not be familiar with terms such as microloans or social entrepreneurship, the sentiment behind these terms is clear: kindness and the will to help others work towards a dream.

Kelly Machleit

For more information, contact Chris Nayve at

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