Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti Fund shows, slow and steady grassroots growth produces lasting results

In the years following the earthquake, Haiti has been on the receiving end of a massive amount of aid. However, despite the efforts of the many thousands of NGOs, non-profits, and governmental groups in Haiti, much of the philanthropy has not been sustainable or successful due to fast growth and lack of direction. Groups such as The Haiti Fund of the Boston Foundation have found that funding grassroots organizations who will demand accountability, and placing Haitians and diaspora in leadership roles, produces lasting results.

Big and Fast is Not Better

Daniel Moss, Stanford Social Innovation Review

July 20, 2015

With questions surfacing in the media about the Red Cross’ housing program and Sean Penn rising to the organization’s defense, the debate about how best to help Haiti is in full swing. And this is before the press on Hillary Clinton’s campaign scrutinizes her foundation’s multi-million dollar investments in Haiti’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake.

The Haiti Fund of the Boston Foundation was born the day after that quake, a time of great torment but potential promise as well. Without careful rethinking, we knew aid could worsen social and economic inequalities, just as it has in previous disasters. Over five years, the Haiti Fund granted over $2 million to more than 100 Haitian grassroots organizations. Big and fast? Slow and steady? National staff or foreign consultants? We spent much time chewing on these difficult choices.

The Haiti Fund began its work in a noisy auditorium, debating principles of reconstruction to guide development, among a broad coalition of Haitian organizations (from the island and the diaspora) and the National Association of Haitian Elected Officials Network. Former Massachusetts State Representative and Haiti Fund Chair Marie St. Fleur took those principles of transparency and social inclusion to the floor of the United Nations. They guided the fund’s decisions about which grassroots organizations to support over the course of five years.

Our co-founders at the Boston Foundation asked: How can we ensure that the Haitian community leads the fund? To stay true to its principles of accountability to Haitians and strengthening Haitian leadership, it would have to make decisions differently. Who better to lead the fund than the Haitian diaspora community right here in Boston?

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