NORTH TUSTIN, California — The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) is an agency within the United States government that invests in communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. The main goal is to foster democratic and peaceful community development in Latin America through engagement with local actors within communities.
The organization began in 1972 with a grant and to date has served more than 5,600 communities. Through the investment of $874 million dollars, the organization takes a holistic approach to projects that work in multiple areas. As of November 2022, the Inter-American Foundation is working on 393 projects.
Over $130 million dollars is working in 26 countries, including those considered high priority such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Colombia. Groups that the Inter-American Foundation supports include those that United States foreign policy prioritizes and those that contain motivated community groups that seek funding.
The Inter-American Foundation also focuses on “targeted engagement” countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia. These are countries that hope to expand economic opportunities and tackle economic inequality. Civil society groups within these countries feature a high potential for community development in Latin America.
RedColaborar and Digital Skills
One of the recent projects that the Inter-American Foundation successfully developed over two years is its online platform that brings together partners across the world. The platform RedColaborar launched on October 13, 2022. Representatives from various grassroots and community organizations participated in an event to commemorate the launch.
As mentioned above, the Inter-American Foundation deems countries with civil society organizations with the motivation for community development in Latin America as countries in which to pursue collaborations. The web-based RedColaborar provides these local organizations with additional resources to foster this development independently. The online community assists local communities in similar projects across the continent from youth development to agricultural improvements, according to IAF.
Another indirect positive effect of the utilization of the platform is the enhancement of digital skills and the opportunity to use RedColaborar to gain insight into the common challenges of these communities.
Improvement in the use of digital resources is key to improving development across the world. The Latin American Economic Outlook, published in 2020, shows Internet usage gaps reached 40% among rich and poor communities and 25% among rural and urban communities. One of the benefits of improving digital skills is social inclusion, through access to public services and community resources in the areas of health, education and jobs among others.
RedColaborar not only helps provide resources to grassroots participants, but it also assists grantees in understanding their impact on these communities, according to IAF. Grantees can access a list of the organizations involved and their corresponding materials, a communal forum, webinars and virtual meeting spaces and panels. A partner that played an instrumental role in the development of RedColaborar is MAKAIA. MAKAIA is a non-governmental organization based in Colombia that uses technology to foster social development.
The process of developing a web-based community is not without problems. The Inter-American Foundation first successfully launched RedColaborar in 2015. It only successfully launched that platform after initiating its partnership with MAKAIA in September 2020. Building the platform involved two goals of co-creation and building community. Subsequent effects of these initiatives bring the expansion of creativity as groups work off of each other, creation of larger networks for collaboration and feedback from collaborators.
While the World Bank expects regional GDP to reach 3% in 2022, it is also expected to fall in subsequent years due to global uncertainties including the war in Ukraine. The World Bank emphasizes investment in social programs to combat poverty.
There is hope that RedColaborar brings opportunities for investment in social opportunities from collaborative projects and cooperative environments developed in the Latin American and Caribbean organizations.
– Kaylee Messick