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The greatest learning is the collectivity value

3 lines of work

By Gloria Guerrero, Program Manager, Fundación Avina – Alianza Pulsante

After a lot of effort and work we can share some learning that we have experienced in this Pulsante’s cycle. Despite Pulsante’s commitment of having three different lines of work (Rapid Response Fund, Fund for Civic Empowerment Organizations and Social Movements Support), they did not stop intertwining with each other. Undoubtedly, each one has its particular learnings but also a lot in common.

When it comes to systematizing this common learning, collective construction is undoubtedly evidenced as an essential element for a long-term systemic change: the collaboration between collectives and people, the connection between organizations and movements and the agendas intersection. When this collective construction is based on respect for the other person’s position, co-responsibility and trust are generated.

The capacity for these processes of collaboration and intersection is an indispensable tool for the inclusion of more voices and to challenge the democracy margins.

Collaboration is necessary, however, it is important to understand that Latin America is going through turbulent times, and that organizations and social movements are facing it on a daily basis. This causes emotional and physical exhaustion, added to these agendas resources precariousness. It is necessary to reflect on the need for comprehensive care mechanisms, which in many cases are not the groups and collectives’ reality in Latin America.

The democracy challenges in the region demand a self-critical look; we hope that these lessons contribute to the ecosystem discussion and allow us to continue finding collaboration and strengthening areas in our societies.

Rapid Response Fund

The Rapid Response Fund implementation at a time as convulsive as the beginning of the pandemic marked the construction of the main lessons. The call was opened for 5 months and we received 451 applications from 20 countries in the region. This process allowed us to understand the immediate Latin America needs; in a year of deep government disenchantment, but also of strong citizen mobilizations that demanded social justice.

The Latin America context changes rapidly and the open calls timing do not always coincide with the organizations’ timing. Most of the organizations and groups in the ecosystem work to repair structural flaws in our democracies, not the conjunctures. For example, gender violence, poverty, discrimination against indigenous populations, etc.

It is important to develop material and human resources to be prepared in advance. Institutional strengthening times are longer than specific situations. For example, a rapid response project cannot be asked to carry out comprehensive communication planning without accompaniment in the middle of the vortex.

Despite it all, there is complementarity among organizations, collectives and activists to respond more dynamically to political and social conjunctures. This is an opportunity to build more agile processes that guarantee respect for human rights.

Fund for Civic Empowerment Organizations

The Fund for Organizations open call received more than 840 applications from 20 countries in Latin America. This process allowed us to identify the main challenges faced by the civil society in the region, especially by the most emerging organizations.

It is essential to understand the organizations and their teams’ work context for a good support. This makes it possible to identify the main challenges and opportunities faced by emerging organizations. For example, one of the main challenges is that a large number of organizations face financial sustainability challenges. Or that it is necessary to strengthen the communication capacities and the construction of ecosystem narratives, as the current context also demands connecting with people outside the niche of “those already convinced”.

It is necessary to build flexible and suitable evaluation strategies for emerging processes. Generally, within traditional evaluation mechanisms, it is not possible to analyze the impact of more emerging processes.

Social Movements’ Support

Pulsante developed an identification and connection mechanism with social movements, which made it possible to monitor 12 movements’ expressions in four countries. Times of deep crisis proved to be an opportunity to support alternative forms of social action.

Most of the groups and collectives that are part of a social movement do so in a voluntary work scheme. Many groups that are in favor of democracy and those that fight for a fairer life are working in contexts of repression by governments with measures of excessive use of public force; this limits civic space and is worrying in the long term.

It is necessary to reflect and rethink how to repair and heal the distance that exists between the historically excluded groups that are organized and public institutions. New narratives are needed to mobilize and influence the structures and the power distribution, which are not developed only from the confrontation. Social movements are the ones that generate disruptive changes nowadays.

Learnings for the future

These lessons are not intended to be a recipe, but rather a trigger for reflection and for the design of support schemas that are more aligned with the ecosystem needs and the complexities that the Latin American civil society faces today.

After three years of work, we can affirm that it is essential to think collectively and combine capacities to identify the opportunities to protect and expand civic space in the future, to support the ethical use of new technologies, to protect the right to protest, and to encourage the design of narratives and communications for advocacy. Now, more than ever, the future democracies are built with collective responses that have the potential for disruption for long-term change and collective well-being.

Explore more about the learnings and reflections of Pulsante’s work in the external evaluation reports from the Rapid Response Fund, the Fund for Organizations, and from the Social Movements’ Support.