FUNDES was born in 1984, inspired by the vision and values of Swiss businessman Stephan Schmidheiny and the archbishop of Panama, Marcos McGrath, both concerned with the unemployment that was hitting the poorest sectors of Panama and Latin America at that time.
The most discouraging for both of them was the lack of opportunities for people to find alternatives to poverty, and they both agreed that normal philanthropy was not going to get to the root of the problem.
On the contrary, both the businessman and the archbishop decided that the best way to implement change was to create an organization that provided small business persons access to credit to as a way to generate of generating jobs and contributing to the country's development. This pioneering program marked the beginning of the on-going work that FUNDES carries out in promoting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, known as MSMEs.
This is how FUNDES was created in Panama, as a pioneering and visionary organization in the development of the region's private sector. Two years later, in 1984, the model was applied in Costa Rica, followed by Guatemala in 1988, a year later in Colombia and then in Bolivia. FUNDES in Chile was set up in 1992, in Argentina and Mexico in 1993, Venezuela 1994 and in El Salvador in 2000.
FUNDES work is based on the strengthening of the business capacity of a wide range of MSMEs to improve their market insertion and seek ways to transform sectors, regions and the business climate.
Committed to the original values and aims for which it was created more than two decades ago, FUNDES develops programs and a variety of different activities supporting MSMEs.
Historically, FUNDES has gone through different stages taking it from an organization that provided financial support to a business model today that seeks to consolidate its services based on an integrated project portfolio.