Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2004
Colegio 721 "Caleta Hornos"


This profile was prepared when Dario Funes was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Across Argentina, people are abandoning rural communities in droves to seek their fortunes in the cities. Villages are losing young people, who feel that living in the country has nothing to offer them. The isolation of country living, combined with a lack of economic choices, is only part of the reason that villagers are heading for the cities. More importantly, rural communities no longer believe that they can do anything to improve their lives without assistance from large industrial employers.
Instead of simply trying to lure back big business, Funes wants locals to start their own businesses. Using the local school, Funes trains people to harness the rich natural resources of their area to go to work for themselves. For example, the rural community of Camarones along the Patagonian coast was once a center for the cattle and wool industries. These businesses have long since pulled out, and the town has stagnated ever since. But Funes recently discovered that the local waters are perfectly suited for mussel farming. He set up vocational programs through the local school to teach young people the trade and business of mussel farming, giving them a viable local alternative to leaving for the cities. Through Funes’ program, locals learn that they don’t need to passively wait for outside employers to return; they have the power to create work for themselves. Beyond providing training, Funes’ school also acts as an incubator, providing technical and financial support to its graduates as they go into business for themselves.
With this simple model, Funes is building the framework for a social enterprise that spreads its benefit to the whole community: feeling that they are learning something of real practical value, young people reengage in school and become local entrepreneurs, teachers start thinking creatively about how to train entrepreneurs, and neighbors rediscover shared community values and their own capacity to collectively foster local development. Moreover, when local businesses prosper, it attracts the attention of the private sector and the government, both of which had long since given up on these remote areas.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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