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Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.


Video Courtesy: Alterna Impact. Please note that the audio is in Spanish; English/other language translation/subtitles are not available at the moment.

the what...

What if your idea is to create a framework for empowering others? Give them the ability to take their ideas to scale? How does one effect large scale impact by skills transference?

What does it take to start and then run a capacity building organization, to help other social entrepreneurs? What are some typical challenges and roles involved? 


We take a deeper look into the South American consultancy Alterna, that, as a social enterprise itself, is working at both capacity building for local social entrepreneurs and promoting the idea of a social enterprise. 

In-depth analyses of some areas deemed critical for Alterna's operation and sustenance as a social business itself.

Of interest to

Capacity building organizations of every business type, nonprofit consulting, working in a developing nation, those who deal with high volume business, facilitators, funders interested in promoting research and capacity building as a means to reach large scale impact.


Alterna Read

the basics

What:  A capacity building and social impact consultancy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, operating since 2010.

           Works with social entrepreneurs in the region to turn their ideas into scalable solutions and existing enterprises into sustainable social            businesses, as they work toward societal betterment. Alterna also is a grassroots advocacy outfit, creating awareness of the social

           enterprise sector in the region and influencing public policy.

The one-line story- Daniel Buchbinder comes to Guatemala to work on the entrepreneurial side of a cookstove project as part of an NGO, sees both the potential and lack of support for social entrepreneurs, starts Alterna.

The one line summary: A stable capacity builder, focused on high-volume, operating in a developing country with high potential for social enterprises

How: Alterna invites social entrepreneurs and those interested in wanting to contact them with their idea / problem. Alterna evaluates each applicant on a case-by-case basis and tailor a 'program' to suit the applicants needs and work from there. It works with entrepreneurs at all levels- from idea to post-implementation. 


The graphic below gives a brief yet comprehensive understanding of how Alterna operates- from its funding structure to the challenges it faces. Each box gives a brief summary. Click on the 'Read More' button within each box to get more in-depth analyses with comments and observations.


The reader is urged to read through each segment carefully to get an understanding of not just how Alterna works, but how a capacity building consultancy navigates various aspects, challenges and pressure points of a regular consultancy, whilst staying focused on social attainment goals.

Note: Alterna is based in Guatemala, a developing nation. Whilst  local context and geography influences a lot of decisions, this case study ekes out several areas that are relevant an relatable to anywhere around the world.


• Name: Alterna

• Started in: 2010

• Founder: Daniel Buchbinder

• Leveraged from: The Alterna Foundation, a Berkeley (USA) based charitable foundation.


• Alterna is a nonprofit; Off shoot of Alterna Foundation, a Berkeley (USA) based 501 c(3) based non-profit.

• Multi-layer approach to funding

• Accepts donations

• Has been supported from the beginning by Argidius, a Swiss foundation focused on SMEs

• Program specific grants cover some projects

• Considering a fee based service in some areas


• Initial staff 3 (2012)

• Current staff: approx. 40 (2017) ; includes FT, PT and unpaid Fellows

• Choose a high volume business model- work with up to 300 entrepreneurs a year- helps grow the  sector and gives Alterna the recognition as a go-to name in social enterprise capacity building in the region

• Now have diversified beyond Guatemala borders; Started an initial pilot program with few other S American countries


Alterna has three key roles as most important for its operation:

1. Business Cultivation: Working with the entrepreneurs, helping them develop skills to grow and succeed; business, strategy and investment oriented roles.

2. Business Development : Growing the business; marketing oriented role

3. Monitoring and Evaluation : All about impact assessment and measurement; research oriented role


• 1000+ entrepreneurs and companies benefitted from Alterna’s support.

• More than a third of clients are the underserved- women, rural and indigenous populace

• Over 70% entrepreneurs at idea level launch their enterprise within 2 yrs. of Alterna's intervention

• Nearly quarter million people directly impacted from Alterna’s intervention with over 90 companies just in 2017

 the future

• Streamline internal processes

• Attract high quality talent

• Comprehensive methodology development for evaluation

• Garnering tangible feedback for rigorous impact evaluation

•Adapt to the ever changing needs of the ever-growing and diverse clientele


Alterna’s challenges can be broadly classified into 3 areas:

• Bureaucracy and paperwork – in terms of funding applications, navigating various governmental bodies etc.

• Creating a systematic, streamlined yet personalized methodology

• Tangible feedback- from clients and entrepreneurs they have worked with.

role of government

Alterna’s wish-list for the role of government in supporting Social Enterprises and Innovation

• Recognize the social enterprise sector formally

Support private sector to create social innovation.

• Make paperwork easier; provide tax breaks for socially conscious business

• Provide tangible support for capacity builders to maximize impact

And one last note:

We are very thankful to Ms. Ines Mazas, Manager and long time Alterna team member for sharing her insights on Alterna. Discussions with her were invaluable in developing a deeper understanding of this organization.

We are also grateful to the larger Alterna team for giving us other information and helping fill the dots. 

This  case study and analyses would not have been as thorough as it is without their inputs. We are grateful for their time and dedication in wanting to help with Quiet Value and appreciate that they view this as an opportunity to spread a tangible understanding of how capacity building works in this field of social entrepreneurship.

They take their grassroots advocacy seriously!!

Ines Mazas

Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation

 Alterna can be accessed at

A few of Alterna's more notable clients..

THE NEW DENIM PROJECT Buying denim waste and cut-offs and converting them into fine yarn and then into fine products! Making sustainability an obligation! []

DONA DORA COOKSTOVES A modern take on traditional cookstoves; Alterna’s first and most notable client. [ ]

TACORAZONA restaurant that sources produce from family owned organic farms paying fair trade prices [ ]

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