Strategic Plan 2013-17

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Promoting and investing in grassroots development to help communities thrive


Thriving communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, where people direct their own lives as individuals and citizens.


Thriving communities depend on citizens’ capacity to engage each other in public and private association and to shape and respond to economic and social opportunities. IAF promotes grassroots development through initiatives conceived, led, and implemented by community-based organizations of the poor. As a trusted partner, IAF helps empower the organized poor by building their capacity and connectedness—to each other, to businesses and governments, and to regional and global opportunities. IAF generates and shares knowledge about the dynamics of community development, attracts partners, and inspires others to adapt successful initiatives or approaches. In so doing, we advance our statutory mandate of improving friendship and understanding across the hemisphere; supporting self-help efforts to foster economic and social development; encouraging more people to participate in the development process; and fostering the establishment and growth of democratic institutions.

As an independent federal agency, IAF advances U.S. interests because thriving communities provide the economic and social opportunities and protections that allow citizens to increase their own participation and stake in civic life. Thriving communities are more resilient to crime and violence. Supporting communities’ own priorities improves their perception of the United States and provides the U.S. government with a direct link to civil societies in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Strategic Goal One: Support the coordinated efforts of the poor to improve their material circumstances, strengthen their organizations, and enhance the social and economic environment for community-led development

Over the next five years, we will fund the best ideas for improving standards of living; enhancing civic participation in democratic processes and institutions; and increasing social inclusion. We will seek out promising new ways to generate knowledge and transformative results for our partner organizations and their communities. We will sharpen our funding criteria to implement this strategy and align our evaluation system with our evolving needs.

Strategic Goal Two: Promote the social inclusion and civic participation of traditionally marginalized groups

Members of traditionally marginalized groups--including women, African descendents, indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities—are disproportionately represented among the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean. They also are most likely to be excluded from the civic life of their communities. Over the next five years, IAF will focus on ways to break the mutually reinforcing dynamic of exclusion and poverty by empowering members of these groups to participate more broadly and deeply in the development process and civic organizations.

Strategic Goal Three: Make knowledge generation and knowledge management an integral part of our work, informing new approaches for smarter investments by IAF and others

The IAF was created to be small, agile, and innovative. Over the next five years, we will draw on these advantages to maximize the utility of our specialized expertise and experience gained over our 40-year history to generate knowledge about the dynamics of community-led development. As part of every funding action, we will define (1) what we hope to learn, (2) why, and (3) how we will capture and manage the knowledge we produce. Within the IAF, we will use modern knowledge management systems to share information more broadly and improve funding and other decisions.

Strategic Goal Four: Increase awareness, understanding and support for the IAF and its program among key audiences in order to draw more resources into grassroots development

Over the next five years, we will develop and launch a comprehensive communications strategy that tells how we are helping communities thrive, emphasizing who we are, what we do, what we and our partners are achieving, and what knowledge we are generating. At every opportunity—in the policies we adopt, activities we fund, publications we issue, and public appearances we make—we will draw on this communication strategy to expand support for grassroots development and to increase awareness of the IAF and attract resources for its program.

Congress designed the IAF to be a vehicle by which private, governmental, and international resources could be combined to achieve the best results for development in Latin America and the Caribbean, authorizing it to receive funds from diverse sources to do so. To date, IAF has not taken full advantage of this authority. Over the next five years, IAF will continue to require the organizations we fund to contribute counterpart funding and obtain additional support locally. IAF will also develop and launch a major fundraising and outreach campaign. We will systematically identify and cultivate prospective partners, including corporations, foundations, and individuals. By offering access to our methodology, infrastructure, brand equity, and expertise, we will significantly expand the number of partners for the IAF and the volume of resources for grassroots development.

Strategic Goal Five: Modernize and strengthen our operations

We can achieve our mission more effectively and efficiently by taking advantage of new tools in information technology, communications, and social media. Over the next five years, we will undertake a comprehensive review of operations and develop recommendations to enable us to: (1) act on funding proposals expeditiously; (2) minimize the administrative burden on partner organizations without sacrificing accountability; and (3) improve and expand our ability to share, manage, and use project outcome data. We will assess the recommendations and implement those that are most cost effective.


The IAF has identified the following risk factors that may impair its ability to achieve its goals and corresponding strategies for managing these risks.

  • Reduced financial resources from (1) Congressional appropriations and/or (2) the Social Progress Trust Fund. IAF will mitigate the risk of reduced resources from these sources by launching a major campaign to develop alternate revenue streams. See Strategic Goal Four.

  • Deteriorating conditions in areas where local partners work. Our investments are made in areas frequently characterized by episodes of violence; political, economic, and social instability; and environmental disaster. IAF will manage these risks by maintaining close, frequent contact with local partners before, during, and after the investment period, and working cooperatively with them to respond flexibly when such situations occur.

  • Loss of staff. As a very small agency, the IAF risks significant loss of institutional knowledge from even low turnover of staff. To mitigate this risk, we will institute an organizational structure and culture that prioritizes teamwork and establish a modern information management system. See Strategic Goals Three and Five. In addition, IAF will offer benefits, recognition, and a stimulating and supportive working environment to retain and motivate its best employees and attract high caliber applicants as vacancies occur.