MAKAIA: Strengthening the Social Sector in Colombia

Training in IT
Training in IT
Children learning in the library
Children learning in the library

In the second edition of our series featuring NGO work in Medellín, we talk to Camila Urbina, the Communications Coordinator at MAKAIA – a charity that is committed to strengthening the social sector in Colombia through technological advancement and capacity building.

What is the mission of MAKAIA?

The work we do is focused on strengthening the social sector in Colombia and Latin America.

We work with not for profit organizations, the private sector, local government and civil society organizations, and aim to create partnerships where we bring accessibility and technological development to increase the capabilities of organizations in the social sector.

Why was it started and when was it founded?

The organization was started eight years ago by three young Colombians professionals who had been working with the World Bank and the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. in the United States.

They decided they wanted to give back to Colombia and use the professional skills they had developed to benefit their home country.

Catalina Escobar, then returned home and directly ran MAKAIA from Medellín.

Their intention was to create an organization that strengthened the social sector and specifically focus on using technology as a transversal.

What problems are you currently trying to solve?

In the past there was a lot of improvisation by the social sector in Colombia.

There was a lot of invisible work being done and we wanted to drive their potential, so we work a lot in capacity building and our aim is to create more organized and more effective organizations through technology.

What projects are you currently carrying out and where are they based?

We have many projects across a range of different themes but our main ones are working with libraries in Medellín and other areas across Latin America, strengthening the social sector through our innovative NodoKá platform, and working with people with disabilities.

We offer training and capacity building tailored to the need of the social sector in Colombia and digital literacy for vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities, children and indigenous communities.

Helping people with disabilities access IT
Helping people with disabilities access IT

MAKAIA is also part of the Beyond Access a movement of people and organizations around the world committed to the idea that modern public libraries help drive economic and social development for the most vulnerable.

We are currently the hub for Latin American development projects of the movement in Peru and Uruguay.

Beyond Access looks to use libraries to power development and provide people who use libraries across the world with more access to opportunities, and turn libraries into centers for community capacity building through ICT training, access to information and capacity building.

Everything from women empowerment workshops in Bhutan, helping farmers’ access agricultural information and subsidies in Romania, to digital literacy programs in Peru.

The NodoKá is an online platform that we believe will revolutionize the way the social sector finds opportunities, and creates partnerships.

That includes not for profit organization working across such diverse themes, as access to clean water to HIV awareness.

It is kind of like a filtered search engine where non-profit organizations can create and receive personalized alerts of relevant cooperation opportunities, an opportunity mapping tool and a social sector electronic market.

For example the organizations can find and source old computers that companies want to donate them to a worthy cause.

It also features a social sector job market and has a huge directory of Colombian and International NGO’s.

We are excited about its potential to be a tool that makes NGO’s lives easier and helps to connect organizations with the same values and missions.

We have also been working with digital literacy and empowerment project for people with disabilities and senior citizens the past eight years, with different allies including ministries, mayorships and other non-for-profit organizations.

In our latest project where we have trained 30 librarians across Medellín in how to teach and use software for visually impaired people.

This approach where we train trainers in the libraries creates a snowball effect and helps more and more people with this type of disability.

What is the impact of the projects and who are the beneficiaries?

The projects impact all the community of NGO’S we work with and helps promote the overall development of the social sector in Colombia.

Our beneficiaries are many, for example our project helping disabled and elderly people to use computers, reached over 600 people last year alone.

Group discussing the project
Group discussing the project

How is the NGO funded and what charity status do you have?

The organization is a Colombian NGO and is funded by a combination of grants and services we provide for other non-for-profit organizations, Social Corporate Responsibility initiatives and projects with local and national government.

How is the program sustainable?

As MAKAIA grows and evolves with time to meet market needs and tech advancements, it launches products and services that will enable the organization to be sustainable. We work with a variety of partners and we see these long-term partnerships as key for our future development.

How can people get involved?

There are various ways people can get involved, they include:

1) Volunteering on one of our programs, such as the IT training for disabled persons, or working in our office on information gathering
2) Donating to our work
3) Spreading the word about the work of MAKAIA and creating awareness of our programs
4) Setting up partnerships with other organizations interested in supporting not for profit organizations

What are the requirements for people getting involved?

We have ten people in the office and appreciate any help we can get, so if you are interested in supporting us with any of the above themes please get in touch with Camila Urbina Escobar at or at the phone number +57 4 448-0374.

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Nick is an international development professional from the UK and is currently working for an NGO based in Medellin that supports miners and their communities. As well as covering development issues, he hopes to share his insights into life in Medellin and the daily confusion/excitement that comes with living in the city.