Juan Gerardo Domínguez

Ashoka Fellow
Illustration of a person's face depicting a fellow
Fellow Since 1993
This description of Juan Gerardo Domínguez's work was prepared when Juan Gerardo Domínguez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993 .


Juan Gerardo is helping small citizen's social organizations in the areas of fishery, forestry and agriculture become more efficient and self-reliant. Doing so is particularly urgent now that the Mexican government is removing both subsidies and most barriers to domestic and international competition.

The New Idea

Through his Asesores para el Avance Social (Consultants for Social Progress), Juan Gerardo provides small citizen's social organizations a broad range of assistance to enable them to face the current reforms of the country's economic and political structure. His teams of consultants offer: analysis, evaluation, technical training at various staff and management levels and strategic planning. To avoid dependency Gerardo generally will not offer his services to a client for longer than three years.Although Gerardo's group is headquartered in Mexico City, it relies heavily on a growing body of 29 associates who live and work in many of the country's states. These associates are highly respected professionals in their respective areas: biology, economics, accounting, business administration, etc. The group then calls on the associates as need and opportunity arises.

The Problem

After enjoying the oil boom of the 70s, the Mexican government took drastic measures to cut public expenditure to solve the grim economic crisis that came about in the early 80s. These measures included the sale of government companies, a sharp reduction in subsidies and credits and the suspension of almost all support programs for social organizations. Previously the government's SEDESOL, among others, provided many such services free of charge.

The sudden liberalization of the Mexican economy and the accompanying relaxation of the country's extensive social and political controls has confronted citizens groups with enormous new opportunities and risks. As the old corporativist state began to loosen its grip, the number of citizen's social change and service groups mushroomed. Where, for example, before it was very difficult to organize small farmers other than under a political umbrella, now it suddenly became possible to organize powerful nonpolitical associations of campesinos.

At the same time, the need for these organizations to help Mexico -- and especially its small producers who cannot analyze all the changes or organize to respond at the scale needed and who are suddenly facing very tough competition -- has grown by leaps and bounds to a level no one could have imagined a decade earlier.

Juan Gerardo has set out to help the groups most in need --those in the often inefficient farming, fishing and forestry sectors.

The Strategy

Although Gerardo and his teams have a general approach they bring to the citizens' organizations they seek to help, they adapt their approach to: 1) the strategic situation facing each organization or group of organizations and 2) the client organization(s)' specific technical and management needs. Consequently, they begin each relationship with a survey of the strategic situation followed as soon as practical by a thorough evaluation of the organization's strengths and weaknesses, especially vis a vis the competencies the strategic situation requires.

He and his teams then help the organizations they are helping to decide on short, medium, and long term goals; develop action plans for each; and then take the necessary steps to meet these plans' milestones. For the plans to turn into concrete, successful action, almost all the organizations must learn new skills. Juan Gerardo's teams provide the necessary training. Since the client organizations all work in similar natural resource based rural settings, Juan Gerardo brings substantial and growing sectoral expertise as well.

The Person

Armed with an undergraduate degree in Physics/Mathematics, a master's degree in Industrial Administration and a post-graduate degree in Economics, Juan Gerardo held positions as a mechanical engineer, a product development researcher and a commercial technician. Feeling a strong need to contribute to his country, Juan Gerardo served in several government programs.

Finally he decided he could serve Mexico best not by working for the large private companies or by serving the government but by stepping out to join and use his accumulated skills to help build up Mexico's emerging citizens' social change sector.