European funders and Latin America


… Marcos Kisil, from IDIS, argued that knowing how investments were being made was even more important than knowing how much was being invested. ‘In Latin America, there is a tradition of charity, rather than of social investment by the private sector,’ he said. ‘The issue is how much actually goes into social transformation, instead of maintaining the status quo, as is the case with charity.’ This was echoed by Laura Jimenez, who remarked that ‘social change is not a direct function of the amount invested’.

Leonardo Yánez, from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, highlighted the need to ‘build interfaces of collaboration not only between donors, but also with the beneficiaries of grantmaking, such as governments, local foundations and NGOs’.

Things to avoid

One of the discussions in the meeting produced a list of don’ts when investing in community development, a field in which many of the Brazilian organizations work. The list might be applied to several social projects in Brazil:

  • Don’t act alone.
  • Don’t consider only the short or medium term. Social change takes time.
  • Don’t work only with the government. For project sustainability, it is necessary to involve civil society organizations as well.
  • Don’t foster dependency.
  • Don’t design too strict or fixed action plans.
  • Don’t disregard or treat with disrespect the different timescales of the different communities.
  • Don’t bypass external assessment processes, no matter how costly and potentially contentious they may be.

The outcomes of the meeting, as well as the final results of the survey, will be presented at the Network annual meeting in May during the EFC Conference in Brussels. …

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