Ximena Murillo, President/CEO of United4Change Center, is a social entrepreneur that finds passion in the differences she makes in people’s lives through her work. Her ambition is fueled by her drive to raise the standard of living through education and providing the tools necessary in order to create businesses for women in poverty stricken areas across the globe. United4Change incorporates innovative projects, strong partnerships, and unique approaches in order to bring the world closer to a place guided by social justice and respect of fundamental human rights. These are all evident and strongly reflected in her love for what she does on a daily basis.
Q: Tell me about your background.
A: I finished my masters degree at the University of St. Thomas here in Houston and my background is in business beginning with working for a corporation in Washington D.C. My experience has been gartered through working for many non-profits, corporations, and international agencies. I had the opportunity to travel and my passion began with corporate social responsibilities, social entrepreneurship, and international development.
Q: What inspired you to create United4Change Center?
A: I grew up in in of the poorest countries in Latin America, and even living in an urban area, we experienced and witnessed the conflicts of poverty that enveloped those communities. Being exposed to all of these things I wanted to help those stuck in similar situations. This led to United4Change Center, which is an international organization that works with women who live in isolated and fragile communities to build their own businesses. Using business principles we empower women to break the multi generational cycle of poverty by enhancing the economic and human developmental status in these areas. United4Change gives them the tools through access to education, healthcare, and understanding their rights. The women then apply these things to starting their own businesses and micro enterprises, improving the overall economy of their communities.
Q: Can you give me an example of how you use business principles to empower women in extreme poverty?
A: We believe in the power of women and breaking the cycle of poverty. Women have the potential to start their own businesses even if they live in isolated and poor areas. United4Change gives them the opportunities so they can act on their ambition. If they are exposed to the empowering tools we provide, they are able to start a business supported by a proper entrepreneurial education that facilitates sustainable changes that boost them to the next step.
Q: What do you consider U4C’s greatest success so far?
A: I believe it is the fact that we have been bonding with communities we reach out to. Our success is measured by the impact we have through that. We listen to them and create their business alongside them. The three main pillars of development are, education, healthcare, and economic development. Within these pillars we engage their specialized set of problems with each community we reach out to. On a case by case basis we build relationships to create strategic partnerships that support growth while implementing the pillars of development on a global scale. This means to be a part of different networks, such as the Clinton Global Initiative University, that has opened doors for us to improve our business model. United4Change has a positive impact on families around the world. Overall the accomplishments are measured by the impact that we see through how their lives are changed, how they become independent, and the tangible results. These people come from nothing, and seeing their ideas mature into working businesses inspires me to work even harder in what I do.
Q: What have you learned about the challenges and opportunities that you’ve experienced as a global social entrepreneur?
A: I think there are many opportunities for social entrepreneurs in both the for-profit and non-profit arenas. Many investors have come forward giving their support to impact investing. This means that they are investing in people for the aspect of changing lives and caring about the environment. The challenge is trying to maintain that and be persistent. It has become really competitive but United4Change has never been more ready to expand and meet new challenges.
Q: As the new international correspondent for International Focus magazine, What are some of your goals?
A: I will be in Thailand for three months as part of the Fellowship of Bayswater International. It will be great opportunity to know the country itself and learn more about conflict resolution, strategies for peace-building, and what is related to global development. I want to be the one who can share that excitement about what is going on in the world and bring it back to Houston. Even though we are a very international city, it is always good to have people remind you what is going on outside of our city limits. To inform others of what Young professionals and people who work in non profits or social business are doing actively to improve the world in general. I am honored and I want to expose the reader to this global philanthropy.
What United4Change has been able to accomplish is awe inspiring. Their operation is a difficult one filled with unique problems that are solved by adaptation and close work with the communities they work to improve. The genuine ideals that bring this organization together is the foundation that encourages others to learn from their initiative.