IVLP Impact Awards Alumni Discussion Series: Promoting Economic Prosperity


Through the IVLP Impact Awards Initiative, recent alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program administer community impact projects that bring the experiences of their exchange program home to their communities and promote innovative solutions to shared global challenges. Economic prosperity is key to a peaceful and secure world, and IVLP alumni have unique perspectives and methods for supporting advancing the inclusion, knowledge, and support of diverse and often marginalized groups in entrepreneurship and economic activities.

On Friday November 17, 2023, Meridian International Center hosted a virtual panel of IVLP Impact Awardees with projects that are working to promote economic prosperity and foster entrepreneurship among marginalized groups. The panel was moderated by David Placer and featured panelists Lucía León, Aigerim Janalinova and Hendricah R. Nabukwasi. The Awardees discussed their IVLP Impact Awards projects, how their IVLP exchange program experience influenced their ideas and work, and advice and strategies for budding entrepreneurs.

Some key points from the program were:

1. Shared IVLP Inspiration and Takeaways

Each Awardee shared the effect that their IVLP experiences have had on their current work, specifically their IVLP Impact Awards projects. Lucía was a participant on the IVLP Project WEAmericas Program: Supporting Women Entrepreneurs, organized by the U.S. Department of State and American Councils for International Education. She spoke in Spanish, with an interpreter about the collaborative potential of IVLP: "Haber tenido la oportunidad...de compartir con otras mujeres en Latinoamérica, que también están trabajando dentro de sus comunidades. Es súper inspirador" ["having had the opportunity...of sharing with other women in Latin America, who are also working within their communities. It's super inspiring."]

Aigerim and Hendricah both participated in ILVP projects organized by Meridian. Hendricah remembered visiting New Orleans with her project Entrepreneurship as the Engine of Prosperity and Stability - Small Business Development, she reflected “Based on the exchanges, the learnings from some of those organizations on how to run business development support programs and make them more impactful...I took that and then embedded it into the IVLP Impact [Award] project that I am implementing currently.” Aigerim also recalled productive conversations with Professor Kolb at Utah State, where she "saw the future of social entrepreneurship" and she has carried these insights back with her to Kazakhstan from her IVLP project The Impact of Social Entrepreneurship.

David summed up the general sentiment well when he recalled being doubtful that his IVLP project would really "change his life" as had been promised. After returning from his journey, however, he acknowledged that the experience A Global Moment in Time - Peace and Justice, organized by the Institute of International Education, really had changed the way he interacted with his community, Until this IVLP program I was just working as a journalist...informing, giving news and reports to my audience. But now I'm working...in a different way with them, helping to support them, to give tools, [and] skills to create new business models. 

2. Mentorship as a Powerful Tool

David and Hendricah's projects both feature mentorship as a major component of the support they are providing to new entrepreneurs. Hendricah shared that a program with mentorship will be more wholistic and effective, based on her 10 years of experience, "because it takes into account the personal and professional development of the person...You're not only growing a business, but you're growing as a person as well because of the way the support is being given.” Hendricah went on to explain that “[Mentors] are able to open up a network for you that you can work with. And a network is extremely important for any business owner."

3.The Importance of Creating a Community Network

Lucía also shared about the importance of networks, and noted the different types of networks, that exist "Las mujeres somos muy buenas en generar redes. Pero nuestras redes las construimos de una manera más horizontal, mientras que los hombres tienden a generarlo de una manera más vertical, quiere decir que se relacionan con personas que están. Digamos que arriba de sus cargos...Para las mujeres...somos mas como entre pares…Lo que hace es que sintamos que estamos un poco solas, porque estamos conociendo solamente una franja de las experiencias. Entonces estamos desvinculadas de las redes de apoyo.” [“Women are very good at generating networks. But we build our networks in a more horizontal way, while men tend to build them in a more vertical way, which means that they relate to people who are, let's say that above their positions...For women...we are more like among peers….What it does is make us feel like we are a little alone, because we are only getting to know a fraction of the experiences. So we are disconnected from support networks.” ] Lucía's project is helping to build skills and strengthen multiple kinds of networks for the women entrepreneurs she works with. Aigerim agreed, saying, "My advice [for new entrepreneurs] is to create a community in your region, for example, of social entrepreneurs or women...it's very important to have your people that support you and think the same way.”

4. Social Entrepreneurship

Although it's a term many may have heard before, Aigerim helpfully explained that social entrepreneurship describes "a business approach that seeks to solve a social problem." She went on to explain that there are four official categories of social entrepreneurship in Kazakhstan, including working to protect the environment. Aigerim elaborated that another example of social entrepreneurship is "when you, for example, create job opportunities for socially vulnerable populations...for example, people with disabilities." Aigerim also mentioned how the business goals of a social entrepreneur are shifted to focus not just on profit generation but more explicitly on reinvestment into the business and community, in order to solve the social problem being addressed by the venture.

5. The Positive Impact of Diverse and Successful Entrepreneurs

Both David and Lucía shared about being migrants in their current homes, coming from Venezuela to Spain and from Colombia to Chile, respectively. David reflected that, “Migrants are seen worldwide (in some cases) as an expense to the country where we live, and I realized that many of [the] migrant people around the world want to create jobs, want to create prosperity for the communities, and instead of that vision that some people have that we are an expense for the country...we can contribute to growth [of] the economy, and to make a more diverse society in the countries [where] we choose to live.” This shift from seeing certain groups as an economic burden to instead welcoming these same groups as active contributors to a strong and prosperous community was echoed by Aigerim as she shared about encouraging and supporting her employees, many of whom are deaf, to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures. Both Hendricah and Lucía spoke about their commitment to including more women entrepreneurs in their communities. Lucía shared her motivation for continuing this work: “[Mi proyecto] reafirma mi propósito de seguir trabajando en el empoderamiento de las mujeres...Cada vez que tengo la oportunidad de hablar de esto, lo voy a hacer porque es lo que me mueve. Es la razón de verdad, por la cual yo trabajo” “[My project] reaffirms my purpose to continue working on the empowerment of women...Every time I have the opportunity to talk about this, I am going to do it because it is what moves me. It's the real reason why I do this work”]

“After IVLP...I feel more responsibility, more power to influence my community. And I see the result of this trip, because now I'm visible... I feel very powerful now that I can do more than before.” - Aigerim Janalinova


If you have any questions, please reach out to the IVLP Impact Awards Team at IVLPImpactAwards@meridian.org.

If interested in attending more IVLP Impact Award events click here.

Project summary

IVLP Impact Awards Alumni Discussion Series: Promoting Economic Prosperity | November 2023
Countries: Spain, Kazakhstan, Chile, Uganda
Impact Areas: Business and Trade, Entrepreneurship, Empowering Women and Girls, Human and Civil Rights
Program Areas: Global Leadership