Staff working with projects in El Salvador
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Frequently asked questions
The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) is governed by a nine-person board of directors appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Six members of the board are drawn from the private sector and three from the federal government. The board appoints a president who serves as the IAF’s chief executive officer.
Congress annually appropriates funds for use by the IAF pursuant to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1969, as amended. The IAF’s other primary funding source is the Social Progress Trust Fund administered by the Inter-American Development Bank and consisting of repayments of loans originally made by the U.S. government under the Alliance for Progress to various Latin American and Caribbean governments. The IAF accepts donations for projects in the region.
- A value-driven mandate allows the IAF to support programs that promote entrepreneurship, self-reliance and democratic principles as well as economic progress for the poor.
- Responsiveness to the ideas of organized people drives IAF’s work.
- A focus on innovation and experimentation makes the IAF a pioneer in the development assistance community.
- A bipartisan public-private governing structure assures the IAF benefits from entrepreneurial experience and works toward the long-term national interest.
- A lean operating structure keeps overhead to a minimum and maximizes program returns.
The IAF uses the term “grassroots development” to describe the process by which disadvantaged people organize themselves to improve the social, cultural and economic well-being of their families, communities and societies. This concept is based on the premise that the key to sustainable democracies, equitable societies and prosperous economies is a people-oriented strategy that stresses participation, organizational development and networking.
- Support people, organizations and processes.
- Channel funds directly to nongovernmental organizations.
- Promote entrepreneurship, innovation and self-reliance.
- Strengthen democratic principles.
- Empower poor people to take the initiative in solving their problems.
- Treat partners with respect and dignity.
The IAF has been a leader in helping grassroots initiatives gain recognition as a critical factor in the sustainable development of Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 1972, the IAF has awarded more than 5,200 grants totaling about $730 million to support more than 4,000 organizations. Many grants went to grassroots organizations such as agricultural cooperatives or small urban enterprises; others were awarded to larger intermediary organizations that provided community groups with credit, technical assistance, training and marketing assistance. The largest portion of IAF funding has been invested in enterprise development, followed by food production and agriculture, education, training, and eco-development. Together the IAF and its grantees have tested cost-effective, participatory models for social and economic development. These models have been replicated and expanded by government and larger donor agencies improving conditions for hundreds of thousands of poor families throughout the hemisphere.
Grassroots development works. It not only engages poor people in improving their conditions but also fosters responsible citizenship. To gauge the impact of its investment, the IAF systematically tracks the results of its projects by using a conceptual grassroots development framework. This measures tangible results of projects and assesses the civic capacity of individuals, organizations and communities
- It knows how to select its partners. The IAF supports grassroots groups with a track record in participatory self-help activities, who are willing to invest and risk their own resources.
- It responds to local initiatives. The IAF does not design or impose projects; instead, it builds upon the ideas and commitment of local people.
- It encourages processes that are sustainable, either with revenue generated by grantees or with resources leveraged from private and public sectors.
- It supports innovative approaches that are replicable, allowing the IAF to increase the impact of activities through a multiplier effect.