The Verano I in Chiapas is an academic programme with the objective of helping less favoured communities with the aim of training professionals, enabling them to understand the advantages of sustainability, ethical values and citizenship.
The programme is organised by Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus in Chiapas and uses the educational model TEC21, based on learning through real life scenarios.
Thanks to the institutional relationship between EADA Business School and Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, EADA selected two participants of the International Masters programme to represent the school in Chiapas and apply their knowledge and experiences to the project about citizenship and safe water systems in rural communities.
It was in the cold January of last year that I received an email invitation from EADA´s Entrepreneurship Center to attend an informative talk given by Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey. Their goal was to send two students from EADA to Mexico to develop a social innovation project in the summer. As soon as I received the email, I jumped at the opportunity and immediately completed the registration process to find out how I could participate and know more about the whole experience. While I was listening to the talk, I felt very excited about the possibility to be involved with the different social projects that were being carried out and to even attend a month’s worth of classes about innovation and leadership in one of the most magical towns of Mexico: San Cristobal de las Casas. I realised that I definitely couldn’t miss out on this opportunity that EADA was offering, so I was determined to use my most creative side combined with my inner motivation to win one of the two scholarships that were being offered. So, that’s how it all began…
In Mexico, 20 million people are being denied one of the most essential needs to human beings: safe water. Many of them are suffering and dying from gastrointestinal diseases caused by the bacteria present in the water, affecting mainly children. Mexicans are forced to buy bottled water or walk miles carrying water to then boil it to remove the bacteria. Confronted with this sad and difficult reality, Julia and I, decided to put our efforts and knowledge together to help improve this situation and contribute to the development of people’s lives in one of the poorest states in Mexico: Chiapas. Luckily, we had the chance to work with a foundation called “Cantaro Azul” that 11 years ago decided to start developing a series of different programmes to deal with this problem. Until now, the foundation has impacted more than 10.000 lives in eight different states in Mexico, improving their health and quality of life by giving them access to clean and safe water. They were the first ones who created a system to purify water for the communities through ultraviolet filters designed specifically for the needs of people living in rural areas.
My colleague, Julia Mas and I, worked with one of the most relevant project that they currently have, which started 3 years ago in a rural community in Chiapas. The programme consists of giving franchises called “NuestrAgua”, purifying water systems to women entrepreneurs who are willing to take new responsibilities and be in charge of a business that can help their communities. Their job consists of filtering the water from the community through the system, refilling the gallons, distributing throughout the area on motorbikes and selling them at a fair price to give easy access to clean water. The interesting aspect of this programme is that it was designed specifically to empower women in rural areas, providing them with a regular income and their families as well as giving them the opportunity to be part of a social transformation in their communities.
Our role was to develop a marketing plan to help women increase their sales in one of the regions and to raise awareness about the importance of drinking purified water. In the beginning, this represented a great challenge for me because I was used to working in a different environment with traditional business models applied to big corporations. However, throughout the experience I was able to adapt and apply many tools I have seen in my master’s courses to develop the project, both in the marketing classes and in the social business course. I realised that the skills and knowledge learnt during the year at EADA allowed me to think “outside the box”. Working in a challenging new context, with people from rural areas, about a very sensitive issue, which could benefit from us implementing a social business model.
During the experience, I was very impressed to see the impact that the women are having in their neighbourhoods by helping to solve one of the biggest problems rural areas are suffering. They became promoters of safe water in their communities, improving people’s health by encouraging a change in habits and selling water at an affordable price. I became more conscious about the importance of trusting women to play new roles in society, leaving behind those expectations to work on more traditional jobs and giving them opportunities that allow them to exploit their potential and their desires. With this programme, the girls have clearly shown they are able to lead a business, attend to a social need and become agents of change in their communities.
Families, women, kids, all received us with a big smile on their faces, welcomed us in their homes and even cooked for us their famous quesadillas- which I must say were very spicy! The women were happy about all the work we have done together and I am glad we contributed to improving the lives of families in Mexico. My classmates from Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, the teachers, the staff, the people from the foundation, and the women entrepreneurs, all made it an unforgettable experience. I am very grateful to EADA for giving me this opportunity and for trusting Julia and I to carry out this programme. I feel strongly motivated to continue working on social innovation projects, reconfirming my passion of helping others and encouraging others to be part of the solution to the problems that their communities face.
About the author
Victoria Matteucci is from Argentina and is alumni of our International Master in Marketing class of 2017. She has a background in Business and Finance and believes that business and marketing have the power and responsibility to provide innovative solutions that serve humanity.