Chicago Youth Program Expands To Colombia

This memo recommends expanding to The Republic of Colombia after considering the following five factors:

  • Colombia’s Political Environment

  • Colombia’s Economic Climate

  • Colombia’s Legal System

  • Colombia’s Technological Status

  • EK’s Capacity


The following political accomplishments and policy objectives make investment in Colombia’s education sector ripe:

  • Five-fold increase in educational funding (1966-1986)

  • Two-fold increase in primary school enrollment

  • Six-fold increase in secondary school enrollment

  • Colombia’s educational reforms emphasizing increased quality and coverage (2002-2012)

  • Colombia increased its education budget by 5.75% (2015)

  • Colombia declared that its goal is to become the most education Latin country by 2025

  • Education projections show highest gains to low-income students (EK’s targeted programming demographic)

EK’s mission is to increase economic mobility for the most deserving populations by offering programming in: (1) Youth Development (2) Job Readiness (3) Financial Literacy (4) Healthy Living (5) Journalism (6) Job Readiness and (7) Counseling.

Colombia’s increased educational investment and targeting outcomes within disadvantaged populations aligns with EK’s mission in a way that can create value and increase EK’s international standing.


Colombia’s increased investment in education correlates to its increased economic activity and lower poverty.

  • GDP (per capita): $1,500 to $14,000 (1990-2015)

  • GDP (PPP): $120 billion to nearly $700 billion (1990-2015)

  • Poverty: 65 percent to 24 percent (1990- 2015)


Colombia, with its relatively small economy, will experience higher growth rates compared to its larger economic counterparts due to investment required to build its infrastructure. If EK capitalizes on Colombian investment, EK will likely experience:

  • Heightened performance metrics proportional to growth rates in the emerging economy

  • Favorable perceptions and increased revenue resulting from performance metrics

  • A larger share of the youth development market due to competitive advantages


Two-thirds of Colombians do not trust their high courts. Last year a high court justice was relieved from duties due to findings the judge accepted monetary bribes to influence his voting and his colleagues’ votes on the bench. The perception, real or perceived, potentially affects EK if it ends up in a legal dispute within a legal system with a long record of suspected cronyism and a pay-to-play culture.

Colombia provides the third most IT services in Latin America with record sales approaching $2.5 billion in 2015 or 1.2 % of Colombia’s GDP. Colombia’s emphasis on tech may allow EK to alleviate a barrier to entry, although not likely.


  • Create relationships with Colombia’s political, corporate and education leaders

  • Show key leaders that investment in EK supports mutually beneficial goals

  • Private sector investment will see returns with employees creating more value

  • Government will see higher productivity and an emerging middle-class

  • Leverage technology to achieve strategic objectives


Although EK may have the capacity to open operations in an emerging market, it should temper excitement with reason. Visiting the country and interviewing real people seems prudent. EK may also wish to partner with existing or emerging organizations with “boots on the ground” before shifting significant investment and operations to Colombia. Finally, EK should conduct a pilot study to determine whether its U.S. results can be replicated and applied in a different country with different culture and possibly different incentives.

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