‘Milestone’ for Latin America as Latimpacto conference kicks off in Cartagena, Colombia

Pioneers Post’s Anna Patton joins more than 300 ‘impact minds’ at this week’s inaugural Latimpacto event in Colombia. The event aims to disrupt the traditional conference format, with visits to local groups and an emphasis on collaboration. The first day is worlds away from the online-only connections of the pandemic, she discovers.

Drum-making, crafts as art therapy and mangrove-planting were among the activities keeping delegates busy – and distracting them from the high humidity – at Latimpacto’s first major conference on Sunday.

The ‘inspirational journeys’ formed day one of the conference, which runs from 24-27 April in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Further visits to local social impact organisations are take place on Monday.

More than 300 people from around the world registered for the gathering, which aims to help impact leaders connect with and learn from each other, in order to increase capital for social and environmental impact in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

It’s time to connect and think together how to generate more impact

Although Latimpacto is based in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, the network chose to host its first conference in Cartagena, a much-visited city thanks to its Caribbean coastline, historic architecture and colourful street art.

Lina Montoya - Bancolombia FoundationLatimpacto was established in early 2020 to emulate the success of its sister networks for venture philanthropy in Europe (EVPA), Asia (AVPN) and Africa (AVPA). A big part of its role is facilitating connections – both across borders, and between philanthropists and impact investors – but due to the Covid-19 pandemic it has been unable to host a major in-person event until now.

Speaking at a dinner for members on Sunday evening, Lina Montoya (pictured), executive director of the Bancolombia Foundation and a member of the Latimpacto board, said getting the network to  this stage had taken “a lot of effort”. While it was tempting to look only at how much more work had to be done, this was a “big milestone” that deserved recognition, she said.

Earlier that day, in a video message posted on Twitter, Latimpacto CEO Carolina Suárez said: “You can’t imagine how much we were looking forward to this moment. No more screens, no more virtual connections. It’s time to connect and think together how to generate more impact.” 



Good vibrations

Jorge Lozano from Hagámoslo Bien, a Mexican organisation that promotes the rule of law, told Pioneers Post he had come to Cartagena “to see first hand, to feel the energy, to connect with people vibrating at the same pace as me”. Meeting in person prompted the “cross-fertilisation” of good practices, he added.

Greta Salvi, Brazil director at Latimpacto, said the event was meant to be “very out of the box” – a world away from all the webinars of the past two years – and would be very different to the typical conference in Brazil. 

Brazil had a “great tradition” of philanthropy and a growing impact investing ecosystem, Salvi said, but the bit in the middle – venture philanthropy – was missing. But many foundations wanted to learn about new models and innovative finance, and would be able to learn from others at this week’s conference.   

Lozano, who is also a member of Latimpacto’s strategic advisory board, said that Mexico was home to many social good initiatives and ideas that could be replicated, but that people tended not to collaborate. Latimpacto could therefore be “inspirational”. 


Drumming to a different beat 

One of Sunday’s ‘inspirational journeys’ was a visit to Tambores de Cabildo, a music and dance school on the outskirts of Cartagena, where visitors watched performances, joined a drumming workshop and learned to make drums which will then be used by the school. 

Rafael Ramos, who founded Tambores de Cabildo 15 years ago, said his initial goal had been to keep music traditions alive. Only later did he realise how much impact drumming classes could have on young people in the community, and the project now has a strong focus on cultural identity, wellbeing and community integration.  

The school is located in La Boquilla, a fishing village that has a reputation for being dangerous; nearby hotels warn their guests to avoid the beach in that area. A slogan that appears around the school’s building and in the nearby restaurant is “La Boquilla no es como la pintan” (La Boquilla is not like its reputation). 

Latimpacto La Boquilla mural

Ramos told Pioneers Post the visit by Latimpacto delegates was welcome because some might end up helping the school, which is entirely volunteer-run. But he also valued the recognition and the chance to share their knowledge and culture with others. Many visitors to Cartagena stayed in the city centre, he said, and did not get to know poorer or ethnic minority communities.

“Many interesting things happen when you visit us, and even more when visitors come, like today, who work and make something for the school. We enjoy it, we learn things, we get to know people and, above all, we share what we have with people who visit.”



Header photo: Musicians at Tambores de Cabildo. Photo by Anna Patton.

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