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.
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.
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.