March 19, 2013: With a capacity crowd of approximately 250 attendees, the Investing in Haitian Progress conference on Saturday March 16, 2013 at Columbia University in New York was a definite success. “Attending the Investing in Haitian Progress conference was important for me as a social entrepreneur. I was completely blown away by the opportunity to make serious connections with investors, attract new customers, and the support I received from members of the audience who share a vision, like me, to change Haiti,”—said Yve-Car Momperousse, CEO of Kreyol Essence.
The conference was organized by the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (HHTARG) with support from the Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investment (LEAD) program, which is financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and reached over 52,000 over social media. The event was held at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University in New York, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute’s Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development, where Tatiana Wah directs the Haiti Research and Policy Program at the Earth Institute. Dr. Wah advised “While homeland governments and the international aid and development community recognize the value and significance of diasporas as development actors and call for the institutionalization of diaspora-driven development, few among them have developed effective mechanisms, programs and funding platforms to realize development goals. Dependence on remittances to Haiti has serious limitations. At this conference, we at the Earth Institute’s Haiti Research and Policy Program aimed to shed light on how this may be made possible by offering a model for integrated local economic development that leverages resources and local knowledge of the Haitian hometown associations, local Haitian organizations, local and national government and of the international aid community, including INGOs working at local levels in Haiti. Understanding the environmental challenges in Haiti, attendees acknowledged the need to undertake comprehensive integrated local development programs, with more direct financial support of the international community.”
With a packed agenda the attendees from NY Tri-State area along with Washington, Boston, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Puerto Rico, Montreal, Ottawa, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Port-au-Prince (Haiti) and Ouanaminthe (Haiti), had the opportunity to interact with speakers and panel members to ask questions and have further discussions on core issues of interest to them. Session topics included ‘Starting a Project in Haiti as a member of the Diaspora’, ‘Investment as a Catalyst for Economic Development’, ‘Applying to the LEAD Business Plan Competition’, ‘Designing Local Integrated Development Programs’ and ‘Overcoming 3 Common Challenges for a Growing Enterprise’.
“Investing in Haitian Progress was an honest dialogue that aimed to foster collaboration with the Haitian Diaspora. We need to harness the goodwill from the conference and translate it into actionable steps. I support this initiative as it offers opportunities for small and medium enterprises at the grassroots level,” said Fritz M. Clairvil, President/CEO of Path To Haiti, SA Simact.
Katleen Felix, President of the Haitian Hometown Association Resource Group (HHTARG) provided a summary of the conference “This conference was a powerful message to the international community and to the Haitian government: HHTAs and Haitian Diaspora investors are serious about investing in Haiti and are looking for financial leverage to do more. We had inspiring speakers who are true entrepreneurs with a deep understanding of the complexity of Haiti. The HHTARG will be seeking more opportunities to open the dialogue with international donors and social impact investors. We need to showcase success stories and replicate them if we really want to see progress in Haiti.”
About the HHTARG
Founded in 2008, the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (HHTARG) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation whose main purpose is to link the diaspora with Haiti to achieve development. HHTARG supports organizations working in and for Haiti while strengthening relationships between the international donor community, financial players, and government actors for the purpose of development initiatives in Haiti. HHTARG is also a place for investors, social enterprises, and business leaders to learn about investment opportunities in Haiti, acting as a critical link between Haitians living abroad and the institutions that serve them and facilitating the exchange of knowledge and capital to accelerate social and economic development in Haiti.