The steps taken towards local economic development in the Cauca region in Colombia


The Cauca Local Economic Development (CLED) project had the goal to promote sustainable peace and economic development by integrating entrepreneur / livelihood capacity building and peacebuilding activities in different project phases: mapping, capacity building, and incubation/roll out. The project aimed to develop a Triple Helix+ framework for integrating capacity building, peace building and rural economic development in a holistic, inclusive, and sustainable manner.

MSM, along with the Centre for Conflict Studies at Utrecht University (UU-CC) and the University of Medellin (UdeM), worked from January 2019 until March 2023 together with the Colombian partners: University Foundation of Popayan (FUP), National Service for Learning (SENA), Higher School for Public Management (ESAP), and the Regional Centre for Productivity and Innovation of Cauca (CREPIC). This is a final evaluation summarising the main achievements and lessons learned.

Triple Helix partnership:
With a process creating leadership, participative planning and identifying the role of all stakeholders, it was possible to establish a collaborative platform for the tourism value chain and including in it entrepreneurs and organisations related to the coffee and fish farming value chains. There are formal agreements among FUP, the Municipality of Silvia and the entrepreneurs related to the tourism value chain to work together according to the topics and steps in the action plan created within the process and with the participation of all the stakeholders. This has bridged the role of the Municipality and the University, identifying the needs of the private operators and the real tourist offer of the region and the view of the community (indigenous and farmers) regarding this economic option.

With the training and the fieldwork, it was possible for the University to identify the need to improve the internal structure in a way that could facilitate a transversal approach toward entrepreneurship. From 2022, the direction of the University re-organized its extension activities. And as part of this new direction, the university appointed the project coordinator as director of the Extension Office, covering additionally the Entrepreneurship Center, the Internship office and the Internationalization office. This is a very important milestone and structural improvement. It will give the University the required means to reach out to the community and to keep and improve its capacity to collaborate with the different stakeholders contributing to its mission (supporting the regional sustainable development).

Entrepreneurship component
In March 2022, the Center for Entrepreneurship (Centro de Emprendimiento y Desarrollo Empresarial CEDE) was inaugurated. This is a physical space within the university FUP, the main project beneficiary, which was adapted into a modern facility and equipped with computers, smart boards, and which also counts with an information system. The Center aims to impact all the programs and all graduating students. With support from the project, 16 teachers from the different faculties and covering all the bachelor programs have been trained as coaches/mentors for entrepreneurship, using a standardized curriculum and supported by teaching methodologies and training materials. This Center runs the program “Emprendelo FUP” which invites the students who have a business idea to a special training to identify from the beginning the possibilities of a product and a business model, and especially, to foster a growing and active entrepreneurial mentality within the university. Students from the other partners SENA and ESAP can also participate, as rural organizations associated with students. The Center is also open to the public and offers advice to small entrepreneurs who can approach the staff in charge of this place during their working hours.

Additionally, some of the main project outputs have been the design and implementation of a revolving fund for incubating business. All project partners are part of the Steering Committee, which guarantees a long-lasting collaboration. These were challenging outputs taken with determination and a recognizable participatory approach by all partners (FUP, CREPIC, ESAP and SENA). It also implied a growing process which started at the very beginning of the project in 2019, with the advice and support from MSM’s consultant leading to the update and improvement of an internal policy, to establish a strategic plan to approach entrepreneurship, and to propose activities involving all project partners and improving the connection with rural organizations.

Peace pillar component
The project coordination strategy allowed a positive interaction and collaboration to a great extent with other stakeholders related to peacebuilding and economic development, and the “CLED Project” became a reference for other organizations and initiatives to collaborate and learn from each other.

This facilitated a number of events, which were relevant to discuss topics about the political and social conflict and its resolution. The training course in Conflict and named “Introduction to social and political studies of peace and conflict” had as objective to discuss with teachers and researchers the structural causes of the conflict and violence in Colombia and the Cauca region.  Analytical tools were discussed to understand structural violence and to examine elements that could prevent projects and policies becoming factors preventing the conflict improvement and resolution.

The project partners agreed on a research agenda to contribute specifically to relevant topics related to conflict and peace building.

We like to thank all parties involved who have closely collaborated and worked hard to make the CLED project in Colombia a success!

Orange Knowledge Programme
This project is part of the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) which is funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed by Nuffic. For more information click here.

MSM's Expert Centre on Emerging Economies

This institutional collaboration project is part of MSM's Expert Centre on Emerging Economies. The department is an expert centre on local economic development in emerging and developing markets.‚Äč We capacitate managers and professionals from government, private sector, NGOs, and post-secondary education in Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Latin America. We offer consultancy and customized training programs, and we manage complex projects in key sectors, e.g. water, agriculture and health. For more information click here.

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