UNIANDINOS – From the private sector to the social sector, learn about the story of Katherine Acevedo

Original article appeared on the Universidad De Los Andes’ alumni page on Monday September 5th 2022 by Katherine Acevedo

Applying Market Research and Client Relationship Management skills to benefit small farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean

The power of opportunities

Katherine Acevedo is a believer that “when opportunities present themselves, you have to be prepared to take them”, and that furthermore, “many times they come accompanied by uncertainty or doubts, but when the right opportunity arrives, something inside us changes. It feels different and everything that seemed difficult before becomes an easy decision.”

Acevedo is a graduate of the Business Administration program at Universidad de los Andes and has a master’s degree in Market Research and Consulting from the United Kingdom. Her beginnings in professional life were at a market research agency in Bogotá where she explains that “she was able to appreciate the value of understanding people, discovering what motivates them, what worries them and the ‘why’ of their behaviors”. At that time, she used her knowledge to help large companies make strategic decisions to improve people’s quality of life and increase their competitiveness.

In 2021, Katherine decided to take a different path in her career and joined the social sector. “I gave myself the opportunity to explore this new world hand in hand with Acceso, a company that, in turn, seeks to provide opportunities for small farmers to overcome poverty and have a more prosperous, stable and happy future,” said Katherine.

In addition, she expressed “I cannot deny that starting a job in a completely new sector was challenging for me, but it definitely demonstrated my ability to adapt, learn and transfer my skills to a new team and with a new purpose”.

Why farmers? The purpose of Acceso

Acceso opened its doors through its Social Business Fellowship Program in which Katherine supported the business development team in its growth phase to bring Extensio, Acceso’s digital technical assistance tool, to many more farmers in the region so that they could benefit from valuable information to improve their productivity.

Small farmers in countries like Colombia face many challenges every day. From inclement weather, to price volatility, to poor access to education, opportunities, and training, all of these factors make it difficult to access better life opportunities. The food systems of developing countries are at risk and being a farmer is probably one of the most demanding, exhausting and “lack of gratitude” jobs.

“However, we rarely stop to think about how essential the role of farmers are in all of our lives, because it is thanks to them, their patience, discipline and constant work, that we have fresh, nutritious and healthy food variety on our tables”- Katherine’s reflection on the daily life of farmers in Colombia.

With her duties as a Fellow, Acevedo supported the initial deployment of Extensio in different countries, including preparing proposals for clients, nurturing the pipeline of potential partners, seeking financing opportunities and contributing ideas to develop new commercial tools and internal processes to offer our value proposition to partners.

Great learnings and messages from the social sector

In her reflection, Katherine expresses that “sometimes we can come to think that what we learn in one organization cannot be extrapolated to another, or that changing sectors should us make us doubtful”. However, she made the call to lose the fear of change, because in her case, skills and experience in areas such as market research, behavioral sciences or marketing were transferable and valuable within the social sector.

“Strategic, sustainable and scalable business models are required to face the challenges that our existence imposes on us, such as poverty, hunger and climate change, just to mention a few.”

In addition, it reinforces the importance of staying motivated in work challenges, being aware of the impact and relevance that their role has on a day-to-day basis and invites them to explore work paths with transformative power for the most vulnerable communities.

Katherine Acevedo began her work at Acceso Social Business Fellowship Program in April 2021, and since September 2021, she has held the position of Customer Success Manager for Extensio, supporting and working hand in hand with Extensio partners in Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, and other countries to continue scaling the impact of this startup. This year, they have managed to consolidate more than 20 partnerships with the aim of connecting more than 36 thousand producers in the region with valuable and actionable information.