The Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) spoke to Marie-Rose Romain Murphy, director of ESPWA, about efforts to establish a community foundation initiative in Haiti.
Here is a sneak preview of the interview. For the complete article, please visit: www.globalfundcommunityfoundations.org
Q. The Haiti Community Foundation Initiative has been gathering steam over the past 12 months. Who is involved in the Steering Committee and what brings them together as a group? Why is a community foundation in Haiti needed, do you think?
A. The Steering Committee is composed of visionaries and connectors. It is very diverse as it includes mostly Haiti-based business leaders involved in civil society, educators, civil society activists, religious leaders as well Haitian-American community development leaders. What brings the members of the group together is their ability to think about the collective good and a profound desire to build a better future for Haiti. Our team has a genuine desire to help move the country forward. It’s refreshing!
As far as why is a community foundation needed in Haiti… I can tell you that there isn’t a country that has needed one more than Haiti for many reasons. 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. 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. I also believe that 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.
Q. From your consultations with various communities in Haiti where you and others have presented the community foundation concept, what has the response been? What do people like about the idea that such a structure could be set up in Haiti? And what kinds of concerns have they raised?
A. ESPWA thought about focusing on the development of a Haiti Community Foundation after conducting dozens of consultations with communities and community leaders from all sectors. Money was not the first issue on leaders’ mind when it came to challenges related to Haiti’s development; the lack of control and the need for technical assistance and support were. When we started talking about the community foundation model and its use in Global South countries like Kenya, Mozambique, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Mexico, people loved it. They welcomed the idea of a bottom-up process, community-led and community-defined process, conducted with respect and dignity, and focused on inclusivity and fairness. The concerns that are often raised are related to one’s “real capacity” to build and operate a structure which promotes openness, inclusiveness, transparency and accountability. We are trying to make sure that we live the principles that guide us and that the structures that we establish ward off corruption, exclusiveness, and what we call a system of “moun pa” a Creole expression which means “your own people” (keeping to you own circle which keeps other people out).
For the complete article, please visit: www.globalfundcommunityfoundations.org