Model & Strategy

The Problem
Small and growing businesses (SGBs) across Latin America face stagnating productivity and increasing susceptibility to climate variability and natural resource degradation. Low levels of productivity, lack of differentiation, and minimal integration into value chains make SGBs vulnerable to closure. When an SGB goes out of business, it triggers a waterfall effect that strips the livelihoods of business owners, employees, and their respective families. Additionally, SGBs’ aggregate contributions to environmental degradation are increasing, with 80% of corporate greenhouse gas emissions coming from the first SGBs in their value chains. Negative impacts are even more acute for women in business, where persisting gender gaps in economic opportunity have led to women entrepreneurs in Latin America facing some of the highest rates of business failure in the world. These realities are worrisome; SGBs contribute up to 50% of Latin America’s GDP and employ over 90% of the region’s population. COVID-19 exacerbated these trends, and the region is recovering from a 7% contraction and the loss of 26M jobs.

The Solution
Agora accelerates the growth of SBGs and transforms them into drivers of positive change. The regional organization works with local actors to support SGBs on the road to economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Their work focuses on the three major components necessary for SGBs’ success:

  1. Capacity building: Drawing on more than 15 years of experience working to accelerate the growth of over 3,300 entrepreneurs and SGBs across Latin America, Agora’s tailored training and advisory services support SGBs, entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurial support organizations to move towards economic, social, and environmental sustainability. The focus is on organizational financial, operational, and managerial effectiveness while supporting SGBs’ integration of social innovation into their models.
  2. Market linkages: Responding to the scant integration of SGBs into productive value chains and their low levels of internationalization, Agora supports SGBs in accessing new markets and sales channels. Agora works in partnership with retailers, corporations, online platforms, and logistics providers to extend market linkages to SGBs for domestic and international expansion.
  3. Access to finance: Recognizing that SGBs need capital to survive and thrive, Agora helps pinpoint capital requirements, particularly as they relate to the implementation of environmentally positive practices. Agora partners with financing actors, fintechs, investors, banks, microfinance companies, and non-banking institutions to extend friendly financing to SGBs.
At a Glance
Founded: 2024
Co-founder: Ben Powell
Economic Empowerment
Location of work: International, Latin America
Agora Partnerships
Washington, DC
Human Potential + Capital = Impact
Meet Cecilia Foxworthy

Cecilia became Agora’s CEO in late 2020 after serving as the organization’s chief programs officer. Cecilia has spent 15+ years leading and managing impact initiatives for strategic growth and innovation across the globe, with a targeted focus on the Americas. Her experience spans business strategy, partnership building, business development, design research, program design, financial modeling, digital marketing, curriculum design, and organizational change for youth development, healthcare, agriculture, microfinance, women’s empowerment, and entrepreneurship initiatives. Cecilia currently serves as the Chief Programs + Innovation Officer for Agora Partnerships. Previously, she held roles directing or managing operations, marketing or programs for Global Citizen, Global Goods Partners, and AHA Bolivia. Additionally, Cecilia has founded and built two organizations, Torus Teens and Small Fry, to address education and economic opportunity gaps in disadvantaged communities in the US. Cecilia holds an MBA from Baruch College, an MS in Global Education from Drexel, and a BS in Apparel Design from Virginia Tech.

Cecilia has worked in or with over 25 countries across the globe and has lived in Costa Rica, Bolivia and Mexico.

While a student at Columbia Business School in 2005, Ben launched Agora Partnerships with the help of nearly 20 Columbia students and Ricardo Teran, an entrepreneur from Nicaragua, home of the organization’s first office.

Ben was an examiner in the International Affairs Division of the White House Office of Management and Budget and has worked at Ashoka on its Full Economic Citizenship initiative. Ben received the I-Qube award for innovation, inspiration and impact from Dalberg Global Advisors, and the Social Venture Network Innovation Award. He is a top 40 under 40 development leader in Washington, D.C. and is part of the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE).


In 2023, Agora helped launch Juntas Contamos, a program co-designed and financed by Agora Partnerships, IDB Lab, We-Fi and other key contributors, that will serve 4,000 women entrepreneurs from the countries Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico over the next three years.

To date, Agora has served more than 3,300 entrepreneurs across 23 countries; 50% of entrepreneurs served are women.