Ashoka Fellow Juan David is a 23-year-old social entrepreneur who founded the organization Buena Nota in Colombia. Juan David recently visited Ashoka's global headquarters in Rosslyn, VA where he spoke about his new book, "Llenando Espacios" (Filling the Void) and about his experiences as a social entrepreneur in Colombia.
Juan David's Road to Social Entrepreneurship
Three experiences greatly impacted Juan David and influenced him to become a changemaker. The first experience occurred when Juan David visited his grandfather's farm as a boy. “I always asked why can I go to school but they cannot?” Juan David said, remembering the time he spent with farmers and their families in the area.
As a seven-year-old boy, Juan David decided that he wanted to tell their stories. He jotted down notes, recorded their histories, and took them to his school to be published in the school newspaper. His proposal was rejected, but Juan David wouldn't quit. He then organized a group of students to gather the stories of other workers in the community. Juan David and his peers managed to successfully publish 30 stories in the school newspaper, including those about the farmers.
Juan David's second influential experience came from lessons his parents taught him. Juan David's mother is an artist and his father is an engineer—“a very strange mix,” in his words. Each instilled in him different, but valuable perspectives and skills. They always asked him one particular question that stuck in his mind for good: "How are you going to serve the world?” This question has driven Juan David to not be content with problems in society, to not see youth as a weakness, and to not stop until real, widespread change has occurred.
His third experience that shaped who he is as a changemaker occurred when he was 13 years old. At school one day, the principal called him down to his office to tell him that one of Juan David's best friends was tragically killed by a gang. This event had an enormous impact on Juan David. When things like this happen, he “understood that everyone has three possible outcomes—put on headphones and block out the world, seek revenge, or be a changemaker.” After this, Juan David's goal was to turn fear into hope and strive to do that for others as well, helping them to also make a positive impact in their communities.
Juan David explained that when he started Buena Nota, the media was filled with negative, tragic images of war and violence. One of the initial goals of Buena Nota, was to use online media to highlight the people in Colombia who are making positive social change. Juan David realized that, while it is good to show the positive things people are doing in society, he could have higher impact if showed people ways in which they could help, too.
“There are a lot of invisible walls in society,” he explained. “People often see problems, but don't know how to help.” Buena Nota now focuses on inspiring people to volunteer and then connecting them with individuals and organizations throughout Colombia who are dedicated to achieving long-lasting positive social impact.
With this new book, Juan David strives to invite people to fill the gaps in society's changemaking framework—the spaces where there are pressing social problems, but no real solutions provided by government or other organizations. In the book, he showcases 16 high-impact social entrepreneurs, all Ashoka Fellows in Colombia. Juan David hopes to build the public's trust in emerging social leaders and invite everyone to have the confidence to make a difference. He pointed out that “Like Ashoka, 'Llenando Espacios' focuses on the people, not the projects.” Juan David shows that when you are a social entrepreneur, you can develop your talents to become “someone really special and even be in the spotlight.”
In Juan David's closing remarks in his presentation at the Ashoka global office, he stressed that everyone has talents and skills to contribute to social change. Today's generation has more access to knowledge and information than ever before. We can use this to showcase each other's talents and positive impact. We all have to work together to break down invisible walls in society that hold us back.
“If you are using your talents, you are changing the world,” Juan David explained. "We, the Ashoka Fellows, feel your work. Thank you.”