“Hope is a key human motivator. Whether, it’s the hope for a better day or the hope for a better future for us and our children; it keeps us going. In a country like Haiti where communities have experienced over decades the keen loss of a sense of power over their lives and the direction of their communities, hope needs to be reignited again. Yes, development starts with humans, their dreams, fears, beliefs, and convictions.
The Haiti Community Foundation Initiative’s comprehensive, inclusive and bottom-up community planning process generated unprecedented community response, support and engagement because of its passionate emphasis on and its deep investment in the power of local communities and their leaders. In so many ways, our work has unleashed visceral enthusiasm and commitment because it has been about: building trust and confidence; connecting leaders within communities; connecting communities to other communities; urging local leaders to trust themselves again and take action.
In brief, our work has been impactful because it has leveraged Haitian communities’ yearning for a vision that includes them. Our work has been transformative because it has been relentlessly reconstructing hope.”
Marie-Rose Romain-Murphy, Founder, ESPWA
Economic Stimulus Projects for Work and Action (ESPWA) is a Haitian‐led nonprofit organization registered in the United States as a 501 (c) (3) and in Haiti.
Launched in January 2010 at the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake, we work on building the long‐term capacity of Haitian organizations and Haiti. We are indeed a bridge‐builder with a Haitian-led leadership network with members in both Haiti and the US.
ESPWA focuses on transformational, systemic, sustainable and impactful change that is anchored by local leadership and molded by local communities.
Our belief is that:
- Building sustainable solutions to structural socio-economic problems takes more than program delivery capacity building – it requires that we connect with stakeholders in a meaningful manner to transform our development context into an aligned and effective ecosystem of actors and initiatives.
- When we bridge boundaries and work with others, we achieve greater levels of change than we could alone.
- Passion, determination, creativity and an inclusive vision can make the impossible possible.
In a very short time, ESPWA has built a strong local, regional, national and international network of stakeholders focused on the creation of a Haiti-led, Haiti driven community foundation has the potential to change the future destiny of this country.
For more information on the impact of community foundations in Southern/Developing countries, please click here.
What We Do
First, it is important to stress that the majority of our efforts has been focused on the Haiti Community Foundation Initiative. However, the information that follows will give you a good idea of our approach, our theory of change and the range of our interventions.
Although Haiti has a strong culture of giving and community work called Konbit, the formal philanthropic sector Haiti is not well developed. A society Is only as strong as its network. We work on strengthening the capacity of civil society in Haiti and transforming the country by doing the following.
Invest & Support. Most of our efforts and energy have been thus far focused on the Haiti Community Foundation Initiative. After six years of comprehensive planning and active structuration, we are finally operationalizing the foundation. Over the next three years, ESPWA will work with the Fondation Communautaire Haitienne-Espwa to set up a strong Haiti-based, Haiti-led Community Foundation for Haiti (read more about the Haiti Community Foundation)
Research & Inform. We provide fundraising, research and community best practices data and information to a growing number of local and international organizations working in Haiti. We are also committed to documenting data on organizations serving the country, as it is an essential planning and community development tools. One of the weakness of civil society organizations in Haiti is its lack of visibility. There are many Haitian organizations doing great work in Haiti. Funders and donors need to be made aware of it.
Innovate. We support the work and vision of local networks with “new” solutions that have not been explored. For example, the Voodoo Federation of Haiti is a national network in Haiti which is very focused on the environment and conservation because of its belief systems. They have an intricate Lakou system (a network of village-sized units) that they wanted to leverage around reforestation in the Southern part of Haiti. We helped them formulate a concept and project and linked them to the State Ministry of the Environment.
Connect. We connect local organizations to each other and help them to access resources. Through our Grand’Anse Regional Planning Process, we helped organizations create new collaborations. We also facilitated the interconnection of communities within the region thus a stronger ecosystem and synergy for a more integrated system of regional development.
We helped a water filter social enterprise in the South of Haiti access seed funding by linking them to financing institutions and local funders.
Another example of our efforts in connection was the linking of various funders working on the issues of the Dominicans of Haitian descent that the Dominican Republic had extradited (after enacting a discriminatory law condemned by the international community). Both Fondation Digicel and the Lambi Fund were working on this crisis without being aware that of each other’s work. We put them in touch with one another, made them aware that Inter-American Foundation would be interested (after contacting IAF), and connected all three parties for coordination and collaboration purposes.
OUR MAJOR MILESTONES AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In countries like Haiti whose social-economic fabric has been unraveled by political instability and fragmentation, trust (a critical element for community development and social change) is the hardest currency to earn. Constructing lasting and meaningful institutions requires the painstaking building of a foundation of trust, collaboration as well as an asset-based approach- the acknowledgment that communities know best what their strengths, weaknesses, challenges and needs are. “Doing the work” requires humility, openness, caring, transparency and accountability which are core elements of our approach and of our social transformation philosophy.
Following are a few ESPWA’s milestones. Since 2010, we have:
- Mobilized Haiti-based and international leaders and funders to support and invest in the creation of a Community Foundation, called the Haiti Community Foundation Initiative (HCFI).
- Facilitated multiple forums and planning meetings of diverse local and international stakeholders to plan and advance HCFI.
- Conducted an assessment of community foundation models and their best practices based on consultations with community foundations leaders, and on an intensive team study visit in Kenya with the Kenya Community Development Foundation.
- Based on lessons learned in the visit to Kenya and the research of best practices, implemented a pilot project that engaged hundreds of local leaders of the Grand’ Anse in a regional planning process.
- Compiled Regional Planning Reports for the Grand’Anse Region (one general regional report as well as a specific Planning Report for each of the twelve communes).
- Distributed these reports to key leaders of the all sectors in each of the communes.
- Organized an International Forum on Community Philanthropy in partnership with the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy in Pétion-Ville, Haiti in December 2015. The forum attracted over 40 leaders from Haiti as well as 27 philanthropic and development leaders from about 10 different countries.
- Created a national, regional and local framework for the structure and functioning of the Community Foundation.
- Established a diverse and representative “Central Committee” –a precursor to the Foundation’s governing board.
- Is near completion of the legal registration of the Fondation Communautaire Haitienne-Espwa/ The Haiti Community Foundation in Haiti.
- Created a participatory three (3)- year strategic plan for the successful establishment and functioning of the Haiti Community Foundation. For additional information, please visit the HCFI page.