Ricardo Walter Soto Sulca
Fellow Since 2006
Centro de Capacitación J.M. Arguedianos
This profile was prepared when Ricardo Walter Soto Sulca was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Ricardo is addressing rural children’s lack of access to education through a combination of micro-finance, a focus on culture, and child and community empowerment. He has created an innovative revolving fund for parents to take out loans to pay for their children’s school-related costs, including fees, uniforms and supplies, to be repaid with minimum interest throughout the year. By eliminating the financial excuse parents use to avoid sending their children to school, Ricardo is at the same time changing cultural patterns of low education rates in rural areas, especially for girls. Ricardo is able to make such a shift in cultural norms because he involves all relevant community members, especially school children, in creating change. Committees of school children choose loan recipients, for Ricardo feels that they are well placed to understand the particularities of each family within the community. Parents who receive the loans gain a sense of ownership of their children’s education, ensuring a commitment which has resulted in a zero percent delinquency rate on loans in the three years in which the revolving fund has been in operation.Ricardo has engineered his revolving fund according to a deep understanding of local context, structuring the fund as part of a complete package which systematically addresses most of the obstacles, cultural and bureaucratic, that prevent children from going to school. For example, Ricardo allows parents to repay their loans with work or farm products, an essential flexibility in an impoverished rural environment. He has also seen that the best way to ensure the fund’s success is for children to monitor its implementation, because communities accept children as non-threatening watchdogs. The revolving fund is completely sustainable within each school where it operates, and in fact grows steadily to fund an additional child every year in every school, so it is easily replicated with sufficient start-up capital.