PODER

ABOUT US

MISSION

The Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)® is a regional not-for-profit, non-governmental organization. Our mission is to improve corporate transparency and accountability in Latin America and to strengthen civil society stakeholders of corporations as long-term accountability guarantors. We accomplish this by leveraging business intelligence, transparency technologies, and community organizing to ultimately build a citizen-led corporate accountability movement.


VISION

Our vision is of a Latin America where the citizen sector is sufficiently powerful so as to be able to engage the public and private sectors in horizontal accountability relationships to ensure democracy and democratic economies. The main problem we seek to address is state capture, whereby an economic and political elite controls public decision-making and effectively limits the realization of sustainable capitalism and democracy for the rest of society. We believe these elite actors have co-opted national economies and politics for their private benefit and, consequently, the rule of law and fledgling democratic mechanisms fail to hold them accountable. Therefore, it is up to citizens, their communities, and civil society organizations (CSOs) to pressure government and corporate actors in order to right the imbalance of power.


OVERVIEW

The concepts of transparency and corporate accountability are well developed in the U.S. and Europe. However, in Latin America there are few organizations with the capacity to hold corporations accountable for their actions. Unchecked, corporations in the region often ignore labor rights, harm the environment, and, in general, fail to contribute to the sustainable development of the communities in which they operate. Created in 2008 and formally incorporated in 2010, PODER works to develop a citizen-led movement for corporate accountability through the use of business intelligence, transparency technologies, and capacity building and accompaniment with CSOs, communities, workers and, in general, people affected by corporate practices.

The main beneficiaries of PODER’s programs are local stakeholder groups in Latin America and large-scale CSOs from developed countries that are strategically positioned to compel corporations to comply with higher environmental, labor, and human rights standards. Our secondary beneficiaries are the constituencies of these groups, such as communal landowners (ejidos), indigenous communities, workers, etc. The immediate impact of our work is the improvement of the human, labor, and environmental rights situations of communities negatively impacted by corporate actions. Specific improvements include wage increases, reduced pollution, community participation in natural resource governance, and an increase in the number of civil society groups that act as checks and balances against corporations. Beyond addressing the symptoms of corporate actions (for example, human rights violations), we also attack the root causes of these problems (such as the lack of corporate transparency and compliance) and build community power to ensure sustainability over the long term.

Based on our research and experience, we have determined that empowering civil society and strengthening transparency and corporate accountability in non-offshoreable industries and global cities in Latin America is the best way to make a significant and strategic impact at the economic, social, and environmental levels so that our work can have a long-term multiplier effect. PODER works with civil society groups in Latin America to increase their influence in decision-making and, ultimately, to create a citizen-led movement for corporate accountability based on three pillars:

1) Information about business practices,

2) Technology to ensure symmetric information among all stakeholders, and

3) Strengthening of collective organizing efforts.

The backbone of our work is strategic corporate research in non-offshoreable industries and global cities, which spans four strategic sectors: (1) Financial and related services; (2) Extractives and energy; (3) Infrastructure and transportation; and (4) Heavy manufacturing. We channel our information, technical knowledge, and capacity building to support civil society stakeholders in these sectors. Together with our allies, PODER engages businesses and other stakeholders to ensure corporate accountability and long-term compliance. In addition, we also work on issues of business and human rights, corporate governance, supply-chain sustainability, and the collusion between the public and private sectors.

Despite being a young organization, PODER has received several awards. In 2009 we were awarded the Satter Grand Prize by the Stern School of Business at New York University and, in 2010, fellowships from both the Echoing Green and Ashoka foundations.


PROGRAMS

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Research Contact

PODER provides strategic corporate research services to CSOs in the Global North and citizen groups in the Global South affected by poor business practices in Latin America. Through our research, we seek to uncover the power structure behind private sector projects that have negative impacts on human rights, the environment, and sustainable development in general. We not only improve the transparency of strategic sectors of the economy, but also promote a corporate accountability movement that empowers society and ensures access to democratic economies and sustainable development for all. We focus our research on strategic industries, defined as those which are not easily outsourced or relocated. These are: (1) Financial and related services; (2) Extractives and energy; (3) Infrastructure and transportation; and (4) Heavy manufacturing. We employ a sophisticated research methodology comprised of open source tools and human sources to strengthen our analytical capabilities, and a network of experts on topics such as due diligence, risk analysis, forensic accounting, environmental studies, human rights impacts, and labor rights legislation. PODER’s research efforts often involve two types of collaboration. First, we conduct research for CSOs that request our services for a particular case (when their purposes are consistent with our mission), sharing ownership rights of the research results for a limited period of time. These are usually international organizations with a presence in Latin America. Second, we work directly with citizens groups, communities, and worker organizations in Latin America that are directly affected by corporate malfeasance. Through our research, these local counterparts receive tools and strategic information to execute their own corporate accountability campaigns with a higher degree of efficiency, strategy, and social impact.

 


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Capacity and Training Contact

PODER, together with civil society groups in Latin America, builds power so that communities and their organizations can become the long-term guarantors of corporate accountability. In order to strengthen our partner organizations’ capabilities from within, we employ a train-the-trainer methodology and embed members of our team with local organizations to ensure maximum learning and adaptation. Together, we conduct strategic corporate research, develop community and worker-led campaigns for human, labor and environmental rights enforcement, organize collectively, and accompany allies to strengthen their grassroots power. Our methodologies combine classroom training, field research, and hands-on assistance with accountability campaigns. The ultimate goal of our training program is for local CSOs to appropriate the train-the-trainer model and adapt it with their constituencies and allies at the community level, thus expanding the movement for corporate accountability throughout the strategic economic nodes of Latin America.

 


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Who’s Who Wiki Contact

In 2014, PODER created and currently coordinates Who’s Who Wiki, an open data, open software platform that promotes corporate transparency in Latin America. It tracks companies, corporate elites, and their government counterparts, breaks news and offers fresh analysis, provides a safe and anonymous forum for whistleblowers and other citizen contributors, and empowers citizens to become guarantors of corporate accountability.Why? Companies are like a black box and society has a right to know what’s inside. Only with greater transparency can investors and other stakeholders reward or punish companies based on the totality of their practices – not the tiny sliver they choose to disclose.The platform includes:

• A wiki community that connects corporate stakeholders and allows users to conduct open collaborations with new information;

• A semantic database where users can explore the relationships between business elites and their respective companies;

• A network analysis and visualization tool for exploring the corporate social network, including a function to track parastatal businesses, public tenders, and resource transfers between the public and private sectors.

• And a secure whistleblowing platform for corporate insiders and other stakeholders who seek to improve corporate transparency.

The beta version of Who’s Who Wiki, with initial information about Mexico, is available at www.rindecuentas.org. Through open source scaling to other countries, PODER intends for this platform to be adapted and used by communities, workers, CSOs, journalists, academics, regulators, socially responsible investors, and all stakeholders affected by corporate malfeasance.


OUR TEAM

 

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    BENJAMIN COKELET

     FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
     bencokelet@projectpoder.org

After 12 years as a global trade union organizer and researcher in the U.S. and Latin America, Benjamin founded the Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) in 2008 and incorporated the organization, of which he is now Executive Director, in 2010. In 2009, PODER was awarded the Satter Grand Prize by the Stern School of Business at New York University (NYU). In 2010, Benjamin won fellowships from the foundations Ashoka and Echoing Green. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and African American Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.A. in International Business and Politics from NYU. As a graduate student, Benjamin was awarded the Catherine B. Reynolds Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship. He is an Adjunct Professor in Public Administration at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU. Benjamin and his family live in Mexico City.

 


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This team constitutes the principal pillar of PODER’s work: strategic corporate research. Our professional researchers, who represent a diversity of experiences spanning four continents, contribute expertise in the areas of accounting and business, economics, investigative journalism, law, social sciences, human rights, corporate governance, and large-scale data analysis, among other disciplines.

 


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PODER builds collective power with CSOs in Latin America so that they can become guarantors of corporate accountability over the long term. Our team includes professionals specialized in the areas of community organizing, field research, strategic campaigns, and trade unionism, as well as in popular and adult education.

 


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With the objective of making available key information about the corporate world, this team has both technical expertise and research and journalism skills. Our professionals are experienced in computing and programming, digital security, design and maintenance of relational and semantic databases, system administration, data mining and analysis, social network analysis, and data-driven journalism. In addition, our network of advisors includes tech entrepreneurs, software professionals, mathematicians, sociologists, and transparency experts, among others.

 


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    MARCELO BER

     FOCAL POINT FOR CSR AND CHILDREN’S RIGHTS IN LAC, UNICEF

 

    BENJAMIN COKELET

     FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PODER

 

    MANUELA GARZA

     CO-FOUNDER, COLECTIVO META

 

    JACINTA GONZÁLEZ

     Field Director, Mijente and the #Not1More Deportation Campaign

 

    PALOMA MUÑOZ

     HUMAN RIGHTS AND BUSINESS ADVISOR, DANISH INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

 

    Dominic Renfrey

     Program Coordinator, Corporate Accountability and Economic Policy, ESCR-Net

 

    ERYN SCHORNICK

     POLICY ADVISOR, GLOBAL WITNESS

 
Members of the Board of Directors serve in a personal capacity. Their commitment does not imply that PODER has an institutional relationship with the organization in which they work.


ALLIES & NETWORKS

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