The CASA Socio-Environmental Fund was created as a South American fund that finances projects in large regional biomes in an integrated manner, without prejudice of geopolitical borders. During its years of existence, the Fund developed a successful work strategy that resulted in more than 1,800 projects supported in ten South American countries. This result was only made possible by an intelligent management model and a network of partnerships and trust that grows and expands continuously.
The CASA Fund is the only one in South America established by local environmental activists with the aim of supporting the most vulnerable groups in the region. Since the begging, the Fund considered that the most effective way to achieve this goal is by creating local socio-environmental funds by its partners in each country, as they believe that the closer a fund is to the needs of the field, the more effective it can be in its response. In this way, the CASA Fund decided to offer its technology to the partners of the neighboring countries with which it had always worked. This idea was then presented to strategic financial partners, such as the Inter-American Foundation, who immediately decided to support the replication of the model. Currently, local funds based on CASAs technology are starting their work in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Argentina.
During the process of consolidating of these new funds, some “planetary” moments have helped further reinforce the value of this initiative. Three specific points help to understand this:
- In all the Fund’s member countries, civil society spaces have been abruptly and violently closed, mainly to environmental activists and protectors in the territories where the most coveted natural resources are located. In these cases, internal structures that can distribute resources have been crucial to support agile solutions and to protect local advocates.
- The attention given to climate change issues, along with the necessary solutions and the need for them to be implemented by people living in the same biomes that regulate global change.
- The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the paralysis of the world that resulted, allowed local communities to generate and implement their own responses. In the last year, much more than before, it became urgent to structure ways for the local distribution of resources to these communities.
Another reason for the success of this local socio-environmental fund is that financing is in local currency, which is much more effective than an international donation in foreign currency. This is because many times, these groups and communities do not have bank accounts, and the arrival of funds in foreign currency becomes unworkable. In addition, many of these communities cannot access international funding as they have not yet developed the fiscal capacity to do so, which ends up excluding small communities living in these key areas from all kinds of funds. Helping these groups strengthens the democratic fabric and empowers their voice in society. Once funding becomes visible for the first time, they increase their relationship networks, and then finally they can reach other sources of funding. With on-premises networks active, the reach of these organizations expands significantly.
In addition, the type of collaboration carried out by the CASA Fund is not exclusive to South American countries. The Fund has been working with the local Tindzila Fund in Mozambique for some time to exchange experiences and inspiration in social technology knowledge. In this exchange, the CASA Fund made available its entire management model, contracts, its horizontal management approach, ways of organizing boards and the operation of its partner network.
In conclusion, local funds are not only the most efficient and accessible way to support organized civil society in the Global South, but they are also the ones with the best cost-benefit. Even in the current context, they may be the only real option. If global philanthropy is rethinking its financing options because of the economic crisis that is becoming apparent, it may be worth paying more attention to local socio-environmental funds, established by people who are deeply aware of their territories, and can therefore propose the most appropriate solutions for their countries; and who also have the most efficient and effective means of reaching those who need more support right now.
To read the full note, visit the following link: https://philanthropyinfocus.org/2020/05/14/local-socio-environmental-funds-exporting-social-technology-to-preserve-life/. You can also access the CASA Socio-Environmental Fund website here.