Daniel Buchbinder, Founder, and Director, Alterna, A Centre for Social Innovation
Daniel is a Mexican, currently working in Guatemala. He is the founder and director of Alterna, which is the centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
We have all heard of and seen new devices being invented, or new processes being installed around us. Innovation is a never-ending saga. Innovation is considered to be very technical and advanced, but our guest for today, Daniel Buchbinder has a different perspective on Innovation. He says that innovation is not an innovation if it doesn’t solve societal problems or raise the living standards of the people. Let’s understand why he says so and what he is doing to help this innovation.
Daniel is a Mexican, currently working in Guatemala. He is the Founder and Director of Alterna, which is the center for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In the past, he has worked with brands like L’oreal. He has also advised the Ministry of Economics in Guatemala on the National Policy on Entrepreneurship.
Daniel tells us that Alterna is a venture that he started, as he calls it, in the second phase of his unprofessional life. He tells us that while he was working in the corporate world, he learned a lot but he was looking for a complementary purpose in his trajectory. Alterna was born based on the very clear needs that he understood were arising in Central America regarding the new and sustainable ways of doing social good.
The Three Pillars of Alterna
Daniel tells us that action is the most important word for them. As there are think tanks, they consider themselves as action tanks. They try to be as effective and potent as possible for entrepreneurs.
He says that there is a lot of social gaps in Central America. Alterna tries to create diverse ways to minimize the barriers and connect the people and fill the gap among them.
Daniel believes that innovation is influenced by empathy and understanding from the above two principles.
Social Innovation- Alterna’s perspective on Innovation
Daniel tells us that Innovation as per the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a new device, idea, and methods or a process to introduce new ideas, devices, or methods.
Daniel believes that we are living in an era where any innovation is done that directly or indirectly is for the betterment of the society and people and hence for the environment. He hopes one day the Merriam-Webster dictionary would emphasize the definition that includes environment and well-being of the people, till then, they need to put ‘Social’ with ‘Innovation’ to make people understand that innovation should have a purpose.
Cultivating a field of Possibilities- The way Alterna operates
Daniel tells us that the corporate world is binary. It has incubators and accelerators which operate under certain premises and under certain contexts in which they thrive. Daniel understood that those premises might not fit the needs of the vast majority of the current and potential enterprises, especially the social enterprises. To cater to this need, they created a new concept of Cultivate.
Daniel tells us that the term Cultivate has Latin roots. It is associated with cultivating plants and it also has a notion of resources that one needs to evolve. Taking this analogy of culture and agriculture, Alterna developed a concept that serves the companies in a more intimate, flexible, and adaptive way.
What does Alterna look for in Entrepreneurs?
Alterna looks for two basic features in an enterprise before working with them:
Daniel says that even if the business model is not advanced or they are still in the learning stage but they have a strong, organic, and genuine purpose that is ingrained in their team, he would like to work with them.
People and Team
Daniel tells us that if he sees that the people of the organization have a good connection with their purpose, it really attracts him.
Daniel’s role in formulating the National Policy on Entrepreneurship
Daniel tells us that eight years ago, the Ministry of Economics, was creating an Advisory to strategize and analyze what should be their national strategy on entrepreneurship. They approached Daniel to help them with that. Daniel gave them insights on the subject and tried to put the social and environmental factors in the strategy along with the market and profit factors. He believes that he was just in the right place at the right time with the right idea.
Daniel Buchbinder is the Founder and Director of Alterna, a social innovation platform working to trigger a change in Central America and beyond. Since Alterna´s conception, Daniel has led the launch of two social ventures that serve rural populations at the BoP, and the cultivation of the first inclusive generation of +2,200 entrepreneurs and social impact SMEs in Central America. He leads a fantastic 50+ international team, of top-level professionals that share his passion to cultivate change from the ground up. Alterna´s business cultivation program, entrepreneurs, and SMEs have generated more than US$100 Million in revenues from purpose-driven businesses that positively impact and improve the lives of more than 2.6 million individuals in the region. Since 2018 Alterna is an active impact investor aiming to solve the “missing middle” of the impact financing space.