First Phase of U.S.-Funded DIA Lab Belize Successfully Concludes
Belmopan, Belize - May 31, 2023 - After two years of implementation, the DIA Innovation Lab for Youth Belize (DIA Lab Belize) marked the successful completion of the first phase of the program. Key stakeholders gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of this groundbreaking initiative which aims to create a network of youth agents of change in Belize. The Trust for the Americas' project is supported financially by the U.S. Embassy Belize through the Central American Regional Security Initiative – Economic Support Fund (CARSI-ESF) and is implemented in collaboration with the University of West Indies (UWI) Open Campus.
Celebrating the 81 youth trained, 182 people sensitized, and the 34 participants who developed innovative projects and received seed funding to kick-start their ventures, Rodrigo Iriani, DIA Senior Program Manager, and Audrey Robin, DIA Lab Belize Project Coordinator, were joined by our stakeholders to share experiences and exchange best practices.
Esteemed representatives from the U.S. Embassy, UWI, the Department of Youth Services, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Kolbe Foundation Central Prison, Humana People to People, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), and Beltraide also attended the ceremony..
The DIA Lab Belize provided participants with cutting-edge technology, including computers, camera equipment, 3D printers, and tablets, empowering young beneficiaries with invaluable resources. Participants underwent 40 hours of training in fundamental courses such as digital literacy, canvas business model, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and other specialized courses. After the training, beneficiaries could showcase their ventures in the Pitch Tank Competition, participating with the hope of receiving seed funding.
Rodrigo Iriani, DIA Senior Program Manager, said: "We have been doing this project since 2015, where we opened an Innovation Lab in Monterrey, Mexico, and then we expanded to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Colombia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, and last year we started here in Belize. So, we are bringing here the best practices and successes from the Innovation Labs in the Caribbean and those opportunities that the youth value the most."
In addition to the in-person initiatives, the project offered a range of online modality activities to strengthen the curricula and broaden its impact. For instance, the "Hack 4 Change Regional Hackathon" allowed participants from various DIA Labs across the region to pitch tech-driven solutions in a 48-hour challenge to secure funding for their projects.
During the event, Christine Valerio, Grant Officer Representative of the U.S. Embassy, explained: "The idea of the Regional Hackathon was to identify solutions through the use of data based on the challenges that might be faced in their different communities." Also, Tadeo Bennett, a Hackathon participant, expressed: "I feel like having young people more interest in ICT and software development is very important because as we move forward, everything is becoming digital."
The DIA Lab also fostered collaborations with other organizations, such as Humana People to People to develop and facilitate a workshop on anti-corruption and transparency for representatives from local governments, civil society, and citizens. Additionally, online training on GovTech practices introduced government representatives to concepts aimed at leveraging technology in the public sector and driving innovation.
The Trust for The Americas, through the DIA Lab Belize project, aimed to foster multi-stakeholder collaboration, facilitating a long-term process to promote innovation, improve local government services, and equip young people with the skills necessary to participate in the economy of the future. "The DIA Lab has allowed me to grow in ways I couldn't have imagined. Entrepreneurship starts by developing the entrepreneur. Thank you for sharpening my skills, altering my perspective, and brightening my future." stated a Lab beneficiary.
About The Trust for the Americas:
The Trust for the Americas is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the Organization of American States (OAS). It was established in 1997 to promote public and private sector participation in social and economic development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our initiatives, implemented through local partner organizations, seek to improve access to economic opportunities as well as to foster innovation in vulnerable communities in the hemisphere. To this end, The Trust also promotes social inclusion and good governance. The Trust has offices in Washington, D.C., Colombia, and Canada.
More information: www.thetrustfortheamericas.org
About Democratizing Innovation in the Americas (DIA):
DIA is a regional initiative of The Trust for the Americas that was launched to foster innovation and empower new generations through access to technology training, specialized curricula, collaboration spaces, mentorship, and financial resources for social and economic ventures.