Shakira & Catalytic Philanthropy

SHAKIRA: A Celebrity for Hollywood a hope for 35 Million children in Latin-America.

Catalytic Philanthropy – Case example by Belsy Munive

In Colombia more than 9% of the population (approx. 4 million) has been forcibly displaced since 1985 due to its civil war; making it the second biggest internally displaced populations after Sudan. According to The Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES, 2010). 74.5 % of displaced children lose their families, their homes and access to education and health services Shakira Mebarabak Reapol is a Colombian singer-songwriter, dancer, record producer and choreographer. She is known worldwide for her dance moves and  “ Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” official  song for the 2010 FIFA World cup. In addition to her singering career, she also had devoted her entire life to philanthropy. In 1997 at the age of 18, she founded the “Pies descalzos (Barefoot) Foundation”, dedicated to help Colombian children who have been victimized by poverty and displacement. The Barefoot Foundation support six schools in Colombia and more than 5,000 children receive nutritious meals, education and psychological support services (Barefoot Foundation, 2012).

While her singering career has been successful, she wanted to do a meaningful impact to break the cycle of poverty in Latin-America. After doing some research she found out that malnutrition and the absence of care in the early stages of life are the main mechanisms form the transmission of inequality.  Many experts agree that early childhood development is one of the most effective tools to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty. In Latin America and the Caribbean, nine million children under the age of five are malnourished and 32 million children under the age of six are not enrolled in pre-primary education (Center of Global Health and Economic Development- Columbia University, 2012).

Shakira decided to take a new approach, a powerful one, and action that can really change the future of Latin-american children. This includes gathering the commitment of business leaders, governments, and other philanthropists to help and devote their attention to ensure that Latin America’s children from 0-6 years of age reach their full potential.  On December 12, 2006 Shakira  with others Latin American leaders founded “ ALAS ( Latin America in Solidary andAction), as a not –profit organization. This new Shakira movement applied the four practices of “ Catalytic Philanthropy” defined by Kramer (2009)

  1. Take responsibility for achieving results:  Shakira took the challenge of using her fame and recognition to attract the attention and the commitment of other leaders in order to create ALAS. The movement attracted other known artists such as Juanes and Alejandro Sanz. The Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Also world and business leaders including Brazilian President Dilma Ropusseff, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, British Prime Minister Tony Balir, Chilean President  Micvhelle Bachelet, Mexican Billionarie Carlos Slim, and philanthropist Howard Buffett (son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett) (Cobo, 2011).


  1. Mobilize a campaign for change: ALAS is aware of the need to stimulate cross-sector collaborations, mobilize stakeholders to create solutions and building alliances that provide the conditions for a solution (Kramer, 2009). In order to unify efforts in support of Early childhood programs ALAS generate alliances:


  • With UNICEF supporting education programs,
  • With the World Bank launched a $300 million early childhood initiative (The World Bank, 2012)
  • Cooperation agreement with the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (IBGS) and the Organization of Iberoamerican States (OIS) to promote the ALAS’ program  (Cobo, 2011).


  1. Use all available tools: In order to accomplish its mission Shakira has been creatively used different scenarios for getting attention and support. For example:

a)      Political and Business:

  • Shakira has made representation at regional and Global meetings such as the Summit of the Americas in 2012.
  • Shakira met with presidents of Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil with successful outcomes. In the case of Brazil, the Brazilian government made them committed to building 100 centers for children up to 6 years old with ALAS (Douglas, 2012).
  • Shakira meet with getting Carlos Slim, Mexico’s wealthiest business man, obtaining $200 million for ALAS and he is involvement as a member.


b)      Educational:

  •  Shakira’s speech at Harvard University and Oxford Union with the goal to generate interest and debate on Early childhood programs.

c)       Entertainment and Fashion:

  • Fundraising concerts all over the world.
  •  Cartier’s LoveDay event where 10% of all sales went to ALAS mission’s projects.


  1. Create Actionable Knowledge:  ALAS gathered knowledge experts in early childhood welfare and education from international organizations such as the World Bank, The Inter-American Development Bank , The Organization of American States, UNICEF, the World Food Program and the Pan American Health Organization, and  The Earth Institute at Columbia University.


At just 6 years old, ALAS movement has seen reasonable success in its actions. Shakira efforts and actions is an example of becoming a catalytic philanthropist. ALAS’ challenges will be maintaining the interest of its members and increasing the commitment of the government and business entities. Overcoming these challenges will help ALAS to realize even greater success in reducing poverty and saving the lives of thousands of Latin-American children.



ALAS. (2012). Alas promotes Early Childhood Development in Latinoamerica. Retrieved from

Barefoot Foundation. (2012). Barefoot Foundation. Retrieved 2012, from

Center of Global Health and Economic Development- Columbia University. (2012). Early Childhood Development. Retrieved from

Cobo, L. (2011). Shakira: The Barranquilla bombshell moves easily between the worlds of entertainment and philanthropy. Retrieved from power 360:

CODHES. (2010). Consultoria para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento. Retrieved from

Douglas. (2012, March). Working to Give. Retrieved from The Barefoot Foundation Founder Shakira Nominated for Charity Award:

Kramer, M. R. (2009). Catalytic Philantropy. Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The World Bank. (2012, February). Latin America: Early Childhood Initiatives Improving Life Prospects for 5 million Kids. Retrieved 2012, from World Bank:,,contentMDK:23129072~menuPK:282424~pagePK:64020865~piPK:149114~theSitePK:282386,00.html



2 thoughts on “Shakira & Catalytic Philanthropy

  1. tlhill2012 November 23, 2012 at 2:02 PM Reply

    Belsy – excellent example of catalytic-type philanthropy. The efforts sounds quite impressive. I have three questions:
    1) Who’s behind it? Does Shakira run it all or does she have a team? If a team, how has she recruited them, and how does she manage them?
    2) How would you measure success? Is this leading to structural change? Or is it “just” (still useful) putting bandages on wounds?
    3) How sustaianble do you think the change is? That is, is Shakira’s effort creating a new infrastructure that will, ideally, prevent or, at a minimum, respond effectively to new challengs faced by Colombian children?

  2. Bareeq AlBarqawi November 27, 2012 at 11:52 AM Reply

    Belsy, this is such a great read – thanks so much for sharing! I knew Shakira was very intelligent and aware but I didn’t realize she was doing such great work. I do commend her because she was able to establish great partnerships with those and between those that have the power to make changes for the youth of Colombia and beyond. I do agree with TL, it is hard to measure success on this scale, but her work can only be doing more good than harm.

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