Ben Cokelet

Ashoka Fellow
Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 2010

Citation

This profile was prepared when Ben Cokelet was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
While working in corporate transparency, labor unions, and large civil society organizations (CSOs) for approximately 10 years in the United States and Mexico, Ben realized that very few actors possessed the strategies necessary to hold corporations accountable for their actions in Latin America. As a result, the concepts of corporate transparency and corporate accountability are much less developed in most Latin American countries, like Mexico, than they are in the U.S. Through his organization PODER, Ben’s goal is to detonate a regional corporate accountability movement centered on local CSOs throughout Latin America, beginning with Mexico, where Ben has worked for years and currently lives.

The crux of PODER’s model balances business intelligence gathering with multi-stakeholder approaches to guarantee corporate accountability. By conducting strategic corporate research through a combination of open sources (i.e. information that is publicly available but sometimes difficult to find) and human sources (i.e. a confidential network of contacts in companies, regulatory agencies, and the media), PODER uncovers information on undisclosed corporate practices and reputational risk factors that can be used as leverage with companies whose actions harm local communities or the environment. By involving various stakeholders like investors, creditors, shareholders, and community members, PODER works to change corporate behavior through strategic pressure from the inside rather than simply through whistle blowing from the outside. Rather than altering the individual attitudes of business executives, Ben’s ultimate goals are to make corporate practices more transparent and empower CSOs in the process.

Ben is convinced that local CSOs are best placed to hold the companies in their communities accountable, particularly because the civil sector rarely has a voice in any business decisions across Latin America today. Using revenue from strategic corporate research for international clients, PODER builds the capacity of local CSOs to gather business intelligence and deploy it strategically in conjunction with other stakeholders to address corporate malfeasance. By embedding PODER staff in these local CSOs for several months, Ben ensures that the CSOs receive the long-term accompaniment necessary to become local corporate accountability partners. Local CSOs will thus gradually become a counterweight to entrenched business and political interests in making business decisions that affect all levels of Latin American society.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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