Fundación Maimona is a non-profit, philanthropic and independent entity created by Diego Hidalgo Schnur in 2000 to promote the sustainable development of the rural area and town of Los Santos de Maimona. The focus is on rural social innovation, the use of new technologies, training and the provision of business guidance and support to entrepreneurs. One example of their activities is Mainova Lab, the first social innovation laboratory in the Spanish region of Extremadura.


Alejandro Hernández Renner is a reference in the region when it comes to rural development and social innovation. He has been working on innovation, rural development and entrepreneurship for over 25 years, in both Spanish and international organisations. As the soul of the Foundation, he has envisaged and implemented many social innovation projects and initiatives.


Fundación Maimona



What is the social innovation Fundación Maimona about?

It is about people finding a solution to their problems in an innovative and collaborative way. The foundation is committed to being the protagonists of local growth in different areas, especially those that generate wealth and employment in the rural area of Los Santos de Maimona: individuals, companies, entrepreneurs and developers, and organisations or non-profit organisations, whether public or private.

One example is the Mainova initiative, a concept of economic and community development based on knowledge, collaboration and innovation. This is the first Social Innovation Laboratory in Extremadura. It is a community of people and organisations that develop complete projects in an open, ethical, democratic, effective and collaborative way. This community has at its disposal adequate physical and virtual spaces, technical support and clear rules, as well as relational resources at the regional, national and international levels.


Why did you (or your partners) start this social innovation?

Fundación Maimona is a venture established by a Spanish philanthropist, aiming at innovative and inclusive economic and social development in the region of Extremadura in Spain.


How did you come up with the idea? Was a creative or collaborative process involved?
The idea was originally conceived by the founder, Diego Hidalgo, and the town mayor at the time, Cipriano Tinoco. At the initial stage, in the year 2000, main local actors and social forces were directly involved in the design of a ‘local economic regeneration plan’.


What were you afraid of at the beginning and how (if at all) did you overcome your fear?

We were afraid of not being able to comply with the high expectations for the project among the population. Our essential tool for overcoming it was, from the very beginning, adopting a methodology based on collaboration, political neutrality and support to innovative projects.


What were the beginnings of the social innovation? (i.e. how did you build your initiative, business, NGO from zero?).

Our case is one of classic philanthropy: a visionary donor designs and generously endows a social venture.


How did you attract public attention to the issue you wanted to tackle and make others believe in your purpose and potential?

A key rule was ‘never develop a project alone’. We always search for the best partners for every project, and at a certain stage we reinforced our communication policy, which was not working properly.


How did you make sure that your idea actually fits the needs of the users?

Yes, there was a vast consultation process, and several kinds of links with the users are always active.


How did you raise the money for your idea and what is your advice for others considering DIY fundraising?

We have not been successful in fundraising for ourselves. Thus, we concentrated our efforts on supporting people in getting financial support for their own projects which have a clear, positive impact on the rest of the population. This has proven very successful, as in the case, for example, of a social (ethical) bank called Caja Social Ezequiel Fernández Santana (http://cajasocialezequiel.org/).


How did you scale your social innovation and what tips for scaling could you share?

The way we are actually scaling our project is through the reinforcement of participation and involvement of the population and local groups and associations in solving their own problems, by means of a structured massive experimental methodology of living/social labs (for example, our local lab is http://www.mainova.es/).


How do you change the whole system?

Supporting impact-conscious social and business innovators.


What would be the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social innovator, a member of the Social Innovation Academy, who has only two things at the moment: a big heart and a willingness to do something?

Our best advice is our founder’s (Diego Hidalgo Schnur) Decalogue:

  1. Identify the problems and find solutions
  2. Think big
  3. Follow your passion
  4. Get trained
  5. Plan
  6. Avoid bureaucracy
  7. Do a reality check (do you have supporters?)
  8. Do not occupy space in the photographs
  9. Do not turn reality into what you desire
  10. Learn from your mistakes.


Interviewed by Manon van Leeuwen

Alejandro Hernández Renner, CEO of Fundación Maimona since its inception, has been dedicated to local, business and social development and innovation, in the private, public and third sectors, since 1991. He is responsible for the ideation and implementation of the many social innovation activities and projects of the foundation, is the author of the book ‘Un nuevo model para Desarrollo Rural’ (A new model for Rural Development) and is a regular speaker at social innovation events. He has been Director General for Innovation at the Regional Government of Extremadura, and a fellow at Fondation Roi Baudouin, where he conducted research on fund management and community philanthropy. He is a member of the Club of Rome and the Social Value International (Social Impact Analysts Association).

Website: maimona.org | Facebook: Fundación Maimona | Twitter: @Maimonaorg

Would you like to learn more from other inspiring social innovators?

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