Skoll Foundation


Fundacion Paraguaya

Skoll Entrepreneur(s): Martin Burt
Award Year: 2005
Focus Area(s) Addressed: Education and Economic Opportunity

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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.


  • In March 2014, with two organizations from Bangladesh and Netherlands, Fundación Paraguaya’s Self-Sufficient Agricultural School was selected Global Best Practice. Report:
  • 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.
  • In addition to his work in civil society, Martin was elected twice as president of the Paraguayan-American Chamber of Commerce, has served as Vice Minister of Commerce, and was elected Mayor of Asunción.
  • This Dec. 2013 video shows how they use HP’s Visual Survey Platform to  (at 1 minute) help Fundacion’s social workers survey the level of poverty of each family, creating three different levels of mapping.



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