Using entrepreneurship as a vehicle for prosperity and peace

Emprendimiento En Paz (Entrepreneurship in Peace) is a venture started by UNC student Jorge Pradilla that aims to train FARC rebels in the domains of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. The venture is creating a public-private partnership with local governments and businesses to provide the rebels with skills needed in today’s knowledge economy.

The Colombian government recently signed a peace treaty with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ending more than 50 years of civil war in the country. The FARC is a revolutionary Marxist group that is ready to join society and abandon the use of violence and drug trafficking after engaging in combat in the Colombian jungle and rural areas for many decades. This war against the Colombian government resulted in thousands of deaths, forced displacement of thousands of families and a weakened rural economy.

In order to implement a peaceful transition for the FARC rebels, the Colombian government is generating different inclusion programs in areas like education and employment. Unfortunately, most of the skills the FARC rebels will gain through these programs are geared towards a 20th-Century economy through traditional skill building that will add little value to the economy and risk the sustainability of the peace agreement.  A failure to provide the FARC with proper training could lead to frustration and a possible rebirth of the armed conflict in Colombia.

Working with the Innovate Carolina Dreamers-Who-Do Program, Pradilla had the opportunity to travel to Colombia in the summer of 2017. During his seventeen-day journey, Pradilla conducted the exploration phase of his thesis equivalent project for the Master’s in Education Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. He interviewed and learned from more than eighteen Colombian natives about their experiences starting businesses in the country. He talked to entrepreneurs, individuals in rural areas and education leaders about their obstacles, opportunities and successes when trying to launch a business in a country that struggles with issues of inequality.

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Pradilla’s interviews resulted in a variety of insights: the deep negative impact of the Colombian conflict, the major differences between starting a business in the US and Colombia, and the strong sense of optimism and courage of native entrepreneurs. For example, the entrepreneurs discussed that, in contrast to the US, almost all new ventures in Colombia require strong sales traction before receiving funding from private investors. 

This experience allowed Pradilla to recognize strong business opportunities in helping victims of the armed conflict through the creation of rural microenterprises. For example, he is now establishing La Villa, the first rural incubator for displaced victims of the armed conflict. La Villa aims to generate economic growth, diversity, and sustainability for rural areas through innovation and entrepreneurship. This educational space is a location where victims of the conflict can transform ideas into businesses through strong mentorship, blended learning and collaboration.

See more of what Pradilla had to say about his experience by reading the letter he wrote about his experience.

“…This experience allowed me to recognize strong business opportunities in helping victims of the armed conflict through the creation of rural microenterprises…”

Jorge Pradilla
UNC Graduate Student and Founder of Emprendimiento En Paz