Community foundations are grant-making public charities that are dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined local geographic area. They bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities. Community foundations vary widely in asset size, ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $1.7 billion.
Community foundations answer to the communities they serve. In locations as different as Nebraska, Puerto Rico, and Kenya, community foundations have been the vehicles for participatory planning. Local leaders do more than “give input” to the community foundation. They shape it, lead it, and hold it accountable for achieving results that benefit community residents through the organization’s philanthropic and advocacy programs.
For decades now, Haiti’s development context has been dominated by international aid organizations that set its agenda. This approach has failed. In fact, it has created ineffective interventions as well as an increased dependency on foreign assistance, and it has stunted the local leadership’s capacity for growth. It is time for a paradigm shift and a Haiti Community Foundation that strengthens Haitian organizations and offers them the opportunity to lead the country’s development.
In 2013, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Aga Khan Foundation, USAID and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation came together to form the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy as they understand that community philanthropy is a uniquely effective platform for sustainable local development (especially within the context of Global South countries). The Ford Foundation and the Inter-American Foundation later joined the group.
The Global Alliance produced Case for Community Philanthropy (English version), a report documenting the value and impact of community philanthropy. This report was to be translated in 11 languages. Haitian Creole was one of the 11 languages, as a mean to support the Haiti Community Foundation Initiative’s work on sustainable local development.
With the support of the C.S. Mott Foundation (a member of the Alliance), ESPWA’s team worked on the Case for Community Philanthropy (Haitian Creole version).
The Case for a Community Foundation for Haiti
The Community Foundation model is one that does not currently exist in Haiti. In the course of our process, community residents identified the CF model as a mean to reclaim their values, pride and traditions.
This Initiative’s bottom up, inclusive and community-oriented approach makes it different. Yes, what makes HCFI innovative or different is not a single attribute or factor, but rather the combination of these factors. The Haiti Community Foundation Initiative has been systematically bringing leaders from different sectors and various backgrounds together to work on the development of the foundation.
We are also working on models (regional planning processes) which work with community leaders on setting up their communities’ development agenda.
A Haiti-based, Haiti-led, Haiti-beneficial Community Foundation focused on long-term planning, capacity-building, asset development and philanthropy is something that Haiti would really benefit from, as a vehicle for promoting sustainable development and civic engagement.
Reason number one:traditional economic strategies and traditional international development strategies have failed in Haiti. Our development process has not involved our communities in the formulation of our development agenda which is very much controlled by international stakeholders. We have grown increasingly dependent on foreign aid and on cash transfers from our Diaspora.
Reason number two: historically, our society has been deeply divided in terms of class, skin color, politics and religion. Respected business and civil society leaders will tell you that these divisions are really the root cause of the poor state of affairs in our country.