Mobilizing a community of Latin American grassroots organizations

 Community grassroots organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean have been working for decades to improve the quality of life in their communities. However, the best of this work has often been in isolation and traditional approaches to bring people together and network them have proven to be episodic, not affordable, and not successful at creating a sustainable network of change makers. With the Colaborar project, we seek to change that. By using online and offline tools to engage a broad network of grassroots organizations in the region, we are aiming to strengthen their collaboration, and where appropriate provide opportunities for capacity building and learning.  

What issues are behind this project? 

Most development organisations in Latin America and the Caribbean are facing a common set of problems, including: poor access to development financing, a lack of organisational management capacity, institutional and geographical isolation, generational change, a lack of market knowledge and consequent difficulties in scaling up either products or projects.  

 What results are expected?  

We will be successful when members of grassroots development organisations have become networked change makers who consult, share resources and effort, look for alternative resources and communicate with each as a proactive way to strengthen their capacity, solve individual and collective problems, and advance their own community’s development. 

 Who is the target audience? 

The primary target audience is civil society organisations and networks. 

 Who is behind this agreement? 

We are collaborating with the IAF (Inter-American Foundation). IAF has been working with the target audience since 1969 and has deep networks and experience in the region with funding and capacity building. We started working with this target audience in 2011 when we collaborated with the Inter-American Development Bank to build the project management capacity of hundreds of grassroots organizations and local NGOs. We will be leveraging our 11 years of experience as a catalyst for collaboration and co-creation among development and humanitarian organization to identify and test new models at the grassroots level. 

 How will it be implemented? 

We are designating the Project using the principles of Lean Startup: customer-driven, iterative, and fail-fast. Several learning events will be held in the design phase to validate core hypotheses about the user and the context. The objective is to understand user needs and validate problems directly from selected grass roots organisations. To help this process, a prototype platform will be developed iteratively in order to help generate discussion and learn what contents and functionality a network will need and how exactly organisations in this context interact with it and each other. This will ensure that the final product meets the needs of the target population. As a partner in the Digital Principles for Development project, we are also ensuring that the process and product align with the Principles. 

 Once the platform has been developed, several organisations will be invited to be early users, with an emphasis on a pilot population from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Pilot will focus on refining the user experience prior to a formal launch. 

 The full-scale roll-out will emphasize significant marketing to ensure that we recruit as many organisations as possible to join. The IAF will be providing core staff to manage and curate the network and its content that it continues to make an active contribution to developing development organisation capacity. Ultimately, we hope to recruit a one or more local organizations to take over the management and curation activities such that the Platform is managed by the users in the region. 

 What are the key success factors? 

  • Engagement by the target users and organisations in the design phase 
  • Accessibility and usability of the design for all users, including field-based staff who do not have consistent access to office environments, technology, etc. 
  • Identifying the incentives and motivations for people to participate in the network where previous efforts may have failed 
  • Active management of the community 
  • Identifying the model for long term financial sustainability 

 How can you support this initiative? 

  • Financial and in-kind support to develop the initiative 
  • Adding specific content and learning resources that can shared 
  • Participating in the network at the end of the pilot process 
  • Recruiting organizations to participate in the network 
  • Sharing information about the project with any institution – irrespective of the sector – that might be able to contribute knowledge and resources to it