Building Local Capacity
USAID Market Access
& Poverty Alleviation 2
The Bolivia Market Access and Poverty Alleviation (MAPA) 2 Project was created to raise incomes for rural Bolivians. The project strengthened producer associations to create sustainable, rural commodity chains using technical assistance and grants. MAPA 2 worked to increase the profitability of those commodity chains by increasing access to production, post-harvest, packaging, transportation, and marketing technologies to farmers and small micro enterprise (SME) value chain participants.
The project worked hand-in-hand with the Agricultural Technological Development Foundation (FDTA-Valles) and with commodity chains in the valleys and altiplano regions. Founded in early 2000, FDTA-Valles grew significantly with USAID support through the MAPA 1 Project, which endowed the Foundation’s “Trust Fund” with more than $8.4 million to support projects that benefit growers in the Valles region.
During its first decade, FDTA-Valles (also known as the Valleys Foundation) managed a very successful portfolio of more than 100 completed projects serving more than 100 organizations, 44 technology providers, and impacting almost 75,000 families. Local farmers saw a 90% average income increase by crop, and average rural household income increased by 54%. By virtually every measure and with every donor, the Foundation exceeded expectations.
Despite impressive yields from the monies invested in the Trust Fund, however, those funds were almost entirely depleted by late 2010. While it had long been expected that all of the original principal would be used to fund grants, the original and continuing hope was that the Trust Fund would find additional donors (including USAID) to replenish those funds from time-to-time.
Common Ground’s role in MAPA 2 was to work together with the Foundation’s staff to develop a comprehensive fundraising and communications package. We met with FDTA-Valles’ fundraising team, assessed the status of previous fund raising efforts, and coached the team on how to move forward with a new fundraising task force.
The Valleys Foundation was a private NGO in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It worked to end poverty among indigenous farmers and their families. USAID endowed the Foundation with more than $8.4 million to support projects that benefit growers in the Valles region.
Common Ground made frequent trips to Bolivia as the scope of our work evolved to meet the needs of the project:
Preparing for a Sustainable Future — Common Ground was first contracted in 2009 to provide assistance in designing and implementing a successful fund raising strategy to guarantee long-term sustainability for the Foundation and its programs.
Building Organizational Fund Development Capacity — Initially, we put in place a mechanism for engaging outside help with FDTA-Valles fund development and sustainability efforts. Early on, however, we found highly competent, passionate, and motivated fundraising capacity already existing on the team; and we recommended strengthening internal fund development capacity—rather than outsourcing—as a more efficient use of limited resources.
Change Is Difficult — In the ensuing months, the Foundation came to believe—as we did—that key staff had already proven their fundraising abilities and that building internal capacity should be the goal. Unfortunately, competing priorities prevented the Foundation from taking concrete steps to implement the changes.
Defining Strategy — In order to jumpstart the change process, Chemonics once again engaged Common Ground to establish a clear strategy for moving forward, emphasizing coaching and strategic planning. When we got back to FDTA-Valles’ offices a year later, we met immediately with the key staff, agreed to specific deliverables, and began onsite and virtual coaching to get there.
Leveraging Trust — To push forward a new fundraising strategy for the Foundation, an integral part of our work with their leadership required building more trust—particularly as our recommendations involved staffing changes throughout the organization.
Working Step By Step — In our work, the hardest part of a change process usually isn’t diagnosing the problem—it is helping leadership build and walk the bridge between the old and the new. Effective technical assistance must focus on both identifying a problem and offering paths to real solutions—a process that requires the cooperation and commitment of stakeholders at every step.
Telling Their Story — Threaded throughout our engagements with FDTA-Valles was helping the organization tell its story more effectively to potential donors and investors. Working with an outstanding videographer, we offered a framework, content suggestions, and feedback as they developed short and powerful videos (look left) for use in their fundraising efforts.
A Hopeful Future — Common Ground worked with an amazing group of leaders committed to continuing their work on behalf of Bolivian farmers and their families. They exercised their risk-taking muscles in smart and strategic ways; stepping outside of their comfort zones as the external environment changed around them; and playing in every way to their strengths as an organization. FDTA-Valles proved that while change can be difficult, the results can be profound.
The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.