Martin Burt founded Fundación Paraguaya in 1985, offering microcredit and entrepreneurship education — a daring enterprise, because Paraguay was still under the rule of a dictator. The foundation’s self-help groups provided real benefits, and Fundación Paraguaya survived to support thousands of small businesses and become a leader in microenterprise development as Paraguay transitioned to democracy. In addition to microlending and Junior Achievement for youth, the organization is developing a self-sustaining, productive agricultural school that offers credit upon graduation to put learning into practice. All of these innovations have had systems-changing influence.
As of 2014, he is developing two social innovations: Self-sufficient schools for chronically unemployed rural youth and the “poverty stoplight,” a methodology which allows poor families to self-diagnose their level of poverty across six dimensions and develop a customized plan to overcome not only income-poverty, but also deprivations in 50 indicators. He is visiting professor in Social Entrepreneurship at the American University of Nigeria; Professor of Practice at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute; and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Tulane University. He is author of books on economics, development, education and poetry. He is recipient of numerous awards: Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship; Avina Foundation; Nestlé 2012 Shared Value Award; UNESCO; Global Development Network GDN; BBC World Challenge; Synergos and Eisenhower Fellowships. Formerly he was elected Mayor of Asunción and served as Vice Minister of Commerce and Chief of Staff to the President of Paraguay.
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2005:
- In March 2014, with two organizations from Bangladesh and Netherlands, Fundación Paraguaya’s Self-Sufficient Agricultural School was selected Global Best Practice. Report: http://youthpractices.org/assessment.php
- Fundación Paraguaya’s self-sufficient school model is now being replicated by more than 50 organizations from 27 countries.
- Teach A Man To Fish, its sister organization based in the U.K. disseminating its educational model, now has more than 1,300 members from 105 countries.
- Fundacion Paraguaya’s Microfinance Program is moving away from a traditional “minimalist” lending approach and is developing a “total poverty elimination” approach for all its borrowers, therefore expanding into employment, health, education, housing, water and other similar areas.
- They have demonstrated that it is possible for civil society to get involved in social programs and showed that microfinance was possible. They opened offices in Tanzania in late 2011.
SEE THEIR WORK IN ACTION: