Esteban Torbar

Ashoka Fellow
Venezuela,
Fellow Since 2014
Eposak

Citation

This profile was prepared when Esteban Torbar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Esteban Torbar and his organization Eposak (“achievement”) are setting a new model for the tourism industry while rebuilding waning and exploited rural communities in Venezuela. The model works inside and outside of the communities, pulling together wrap-around support to address social and environmental issues. Inside, Eposak helps community leaders draft and implement a comprehensive development plan. Outside, it finds and engages individuals, companies, universities, and government entities to provide the money, manpower, and expertise to execute the development plan alongside the community members. While the plan addresses specific issues in order to improve community wellbeing, it simultaneously transforms the community into a tourist destination to ensure a healthy economy and environment in the long term.

To do this, Eposak first scopes community improvement projects and forms a fluid team of local and external stakeholders. From the start, tourists are engaged as part of the project team. In this way, the tourism starts before a community might normally be deemed a “destination.” At the same time, Eposak identifies, trains, and funds local entrepreneurs who have businesses that could support tourism (restaurants, hotels, and other necessary services).

In this way, Esteban is ensuring that each element reinforces another to push forward individual, community, and sectoral transformation. By designing experiences and opportunities for visitors to get to know a community by working alongside, Eposak is targeting a certain type of tourist and building a trip that has potential to change how they see and engage in the world. Then, by enabling entrepreneurs and teams within the communities to both improve their own living situation and encounter external teammates in the process, they acquire new skills and perspectives. Finally, by working with existing tourism companies, the private sector, and the government, Esteban is drawing in partners that can provide needed support for community projects and entrepreneurs and draw tourists, but in the process realize their potential for causing wider scale change.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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