Linda Eddleman, CEO, Trust for the Americas (OEA)

Linda Eddleman is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Trust for the Americas a non-profit organization affiliated with the Organization of American States (OAS), to implement education programmes, prioritizing digital and business skills training for entrepreneurs to support the growth and sustainability of their businesses.

Technology is a tool for empowering women and vulnerable communities by providing them with skills, resources and supportive spaces to thrive in an increasingly digitalised environment.

Linda Eddleman has an extensive background in the inclusion and development sector. From 2009 to 2010, Ms. Eddleman also served as Senior Advisor for the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). She is an expert in public-private partnerships, technology for development, competitiveness, and economic opportunities. A recipient of the Medal of Honor of Distinguished Service from the Ministry of Defense of Colombia and was recognized by the Washingtonian Magazine as one of the “100 People to Watch.”
A White House Fellow, Ms. Eddleman previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Economic Affairs at the Western Hemisphere Bureau of the US Department of State, Special Negotiator at the US Department of State, Senior Trade Policy Advisor at the US Department of the Treasury and Special Assistant to the US Trade Representative. Ms. Eddleman served as a Member of the Board of Directors of both the North American Development Bank as well as the Latin American Policy Initiative. 
Ms. Eddleman holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School and  has practiced law in Madrid, New York, and Washington D.C.
In 2021, the BBVA Microfinance Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding with Trust for the Americas to promote the training of low-income entrepreneurs that the Foundation serves in Latin America. 
In this issue of Progreso magazine, we talk to Linda Eddleman about the importance of training the most vulnerable communities, the role of digitalisation in empowering women and the contribution of the private sector to a more inclusive world.
  • Since its creation in 1997, The Trust has implemented projects in over twenty countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. How many people have benefited from these initiatives, and in which areas are you focusing the most?

First allow me to express my gratitude for this opportunity to address the FMBBVA audience. We are convinced the more people understand what we do, the more we will be able to do to benefit the marginalized and vulnerable populations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since our foundation in 1997, The Trust has made a significant impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, benefiting over 5 million people. We've reached this considerable number of individuals through our diverse initiatives, contributing to sustainable development, and improving the quality of life in the region.

At The Trust, we specialize in skilling vulnerable communities, including at-risk youth, single mothers, and those who might be left behind in the 21st-century economies without additional training. We use technology to help communities overcome challenges in education, community development, gender equality, and economic empowerment. We understand it is important to address these issues comprehensively.  Our affiliation with the Organization of American States (OAS) facilitates collaboration with local communities and governments. 

We drive progress and equity in Latin America and the Caribbean, ensuring that our initiatives benefit as many people as possible.  We are determined to leave our local partners more resilient and more effective.

  • Your institution has worked with over a thousand organizations. From your perspective, what is the role of the private sector in promoting social inclusion?

At The Trust for the Americas, we deeply value our partnerships with over a thousand organizations, with the private sector emerging as a crucial partner in our collaborative efforts.

First, our private sector partners bring a clear sense of what the labor market will demand so we train people for jobs that exist and will continue to exist.  Second, private sector partners bring us their management expertise.  Third, private sector partners, recognizing their responsibility to their communities, provide cash and in-kind resources to mentor our beneficiaries. Finally, the private sector can bring contacts and a thorough understanding of the societies where we work to make us more effective.  The private sector knows that a lack of economic and educational opportunities exacerbates disparities across the Americas, posing challenges for business growth and, ultimately, for political stability. Thus, partnering with The Trust for the Americas ensures that companies have access to a skilled workforce, allowing companies to thrive in more secure and stable business environments.

Through corporate social responsibility endeavors in key areas like education, youth employment, gender equality, and access to technology, companies have the potential to effect substantial positive changes. By addressing these challenges, companies not only narrow social divides but also foster stronger community bonds.

As a catalyst for innovation and economic progress, the private sector plays a pivotal role in creating jobs and supporting entrepreneurship. This drive toward inclusive economic growth is essential for poverty reduction and enhancing living standards within communities. 

  • With the Impulso Digital training program, you have managed to train entrepreneurs with small businesses so they can benefit from the advantages of digitalization. Often, these are vulnerable populations with greater reluctance to using technology. How does the educational methodology adapt in these cases?

The Impulso Digital project, in collaboration with FMBBVA and Bancamía as part of the Empropaz initiative, showcases technology's transformative potential for social and economic progress. Our success hinges on an educational approach targeted on the needs of participants.

Recognizing the value of fostering a collaborative learning environment, we employ strategies to encourage active participation and mutual assistance. We ensure that everyone, regardless of tech proficiency benefits from the training.

To address technology adoption barriers, we offer personalized technical assistance and mentoring sessions. We bolster participants' confidence and showcase the tangible benefits of digitalization for their businesses and communities.

Our methodology prioritizes adaptability, allowing us to tailor our approach to the specific circumstances of participants. For instance, integrating platforms like WhatsApp facilitates training access, particularly overcoming connectivity challenges, thus ensuring seamless engagement and ongoing support.


Linda Eddleman, CEO, Trust for the Americas (OEA)

  • Women face more difficulties accessing specialized training, among other things, because they bear a greater burden of unpaid household work. At The Trust for the Americas, we are conducting digital skills training programs that enhance women's entrepreneurial opportunities. What do these programs consist of?

We are well aware of the challenges women encounter in their pursuit of employment and education opportunities. The burden of parenting falls disproportionately on women as the Inter-American Commission of Women notes. This significantly reduces the time and energy available for paid work. Therefore, our programs are designed to address this reality and provide women with the tools and skills needed to thrive in today's digital environment while they still provide care for their families.

We offer a wide range of training, from mastering digital tools to understanding marketing strategies and business management. These courses are delivered flexibly and adaptably, allowing participants to adjust their schedules according to their family and professional responsibilities. Additionally, we have provided stipends to facilitate access to training centers, ensuring that all women have the opportunity to participate in our programs.

A prominent example of our impact is the "Ven, Inspírate y Vende" (VIVE) Project in Mexico, which trained over 62,000 women in digital skills. This project empowered women to pursue their professional goals and reach their full potential while they used our mobile apps to learn from home.

  •  According to the Inter-American Development Bank, more than half of migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean are women. They face even greater challenges. What initiatives have been launched to support vulnerable migrant women?

At The Trust for the Americas, we've developed various initiatives through our technology centers and innovation labs to support vulnerable communities in Latin America and the Caribbean, including migrant women. Recognizing the unique challenges they face, we've focused on providing them with technological tools and resources to enhance their skills, access opportunities, and strengthen their empowerment.

One of our main initiatives is offering technology training programs tailored specifically to meet the needs of migrant women. These programs cover basic skills in computer use and internet browsing, as well as training in specific software and advanced digital skills development. Our goal is to equip them with the necessary skills to integrate into the digital economy and access opportunities for remote employment, entrepreneurship, and online education.

Additionally, we've established collaborative learning spaces in our technology centers where migrant women can gather, share knowledge and experiences, and establish support networks. These spaces not only promote hands-on learning but also foster a sense of community and belonging among participants.

We work in collaboration with local and governmental organizations to identify and address their specific technological needs. At The Trust, we're committed to using technology as a tool to empower migrant women and other vulnerable communities in the Americas, providing them with skills, resources, and support spaces to thrive in an increasingly digitalized environment.

  • The collaboration between the BBVA Microfinance Foundation and The Trust for the Americas was formalized with the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2021 to implement programs in digital and business skills education for entrepreneurs. How do you assess this strategic alliance?

As CEO of The Trust for the Americas, I celebrate our partnership with the BBVA Microfinance Foundation. The signing of the memorandum of understanding in 2021 has allowed us to join forces to implement innovative programs in digital and business skills education aimed at entrepreneurs in the region.

The work of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation has been widely recognized, including being awarded the Corporate Citizen of the Americas award in 2018, presented by the OAS General Secretariat and The Trust for the Americas. This strategic alliance demonstrates our shared commitment to empowering vulnerable communities through entrepreneurship promotion and access to key resources. We acknowledge the value of the experience and resources that the BBVA Microfinance Foundation brings, as well as its commitment to sustainable development and financial inclusion.

Together, we are uniquely positioned to expand the reach of our programs and maximize impact in the communities we serve. We are excited about the opportunities that this partnership brings us to generate positive and lasting change.

We will continue to collaborate closely with the BBVA Microfinance Foundation to achieve our shared goals of economic and social development in the region, as we have done with successful projects such as Impulso Digital and Digital Entrepreneurial Community.

  • Innovation, facilitating access to information, and enhancing digital skills development to increase opportunities for people with fewer resources. Are these the main paths that will enable the construction of a more inclusive and sustainable world?

Absolutely. Innovation is the source of economic progress.  We empower individuals to convert their creativity and new ideas into real world innovation.  We give them tools to access information, to use the internet, and to develop digital skills as the main paths to building a more inclusive and sustainable world. These three pillars are the foundation of inclusion and sustainability in the digital age.

Innovation is key to finding solutions to the challenges facing communities. Through the innovation labs of our "Democratizing Innovation in the Americas" program, we have set out to democratize innovation. Hence, our beneficiaries can develop technologies and practices that address their specific needs of their communities using technology to create more solutions to positively impacts their communities.

Additionally, empowering the development of digital skills is crucial to closing the digital divide and enabling people with fewer resources to make the most of digital technologies. By providing training and education in digital skills, we can help these communities develop the confidence and competencies needed to thrive in the digital economy and ensure that no one is left behind. 

At The Trust, we are proud of what we have achieved in 25 years. Fully aware of the challenges that our region face, we are strongly committed to continue our path of fostering social and economic inclusion in the Americas.