IMAGO was founded by Isabel Guerrero and Zachary Green after years of working together inside the most established parts of the international development system. They came to the realization that macro-level projects and programs could not reach the poorest of the poor. They realized, that in order to transform their lives, the poor needed to become architects of their own destiny.
While working as Country Director for the World Bank in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Mexico, Colombia and India, Isabel met some amazing grassroots organizations working with the poor. They were innovating, they were working in areas in which neither government nor donors could reach, and most importantly, they were working with the poor in a way that developed their leadership and made them agents of change within their communities. Later, as a Vice President for the South Asia Region, Isabel saw the unique way in which some of the best grassroots in the World- in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka- were changing the lives of millions at the Base of the Pyramid. These organizations had created community-based social enterprises to generate revenues to improve the wellbeing of their members- from forest-based enterprises owned by the indigenous communities in Oaxaca, to very large social enterprises in BRAC.
In parallel, Zachary worked for two decades with scores of professionals in international development and government policy. Consistently, he discovered how so many decisions affecting the lives of millions were driven by factors other than those to be served. It was often difficult to know whose real needs were being met.
Isabel, working with Zachary as her coach for over a decade, tried to reach these organizations from the World Bank, but it proved too difficult. These organizations had wonderful results, but most were not able to scale up. What was missing? Why was there a missing middle in development? With the exception of BRAC- the largest NGO in the world- these social enterprises had a huge potential but were operating at a small scale relative to a huge need. They needed help incubating the organizational preconditions for scaling up. More than resources, the organizations needed a focused strategy, systems, data, and a scaling up plan that ensured the preservation of their original values.
From this joint realization, Isabel and Zachary decided to create IMAGO, a non-profit that would work with these outstanding grassroots around the world, to co-create the preconditions for scaling up and help community-based social enterprises prepare to absorb the resources needed to grow exponentially.
IMAGO came into being with the vision of working alongside large grassroots organizations with demonstrated capacity to change the lives of their members. At IMAGO we become the catalyst for global grassroots organizations to scale up to their unique potential, serving as “the missing middle” that is essential to development.