In thinking about the future and determining its plan for years ahead, Avina reflected not only on its past contribution to sustainable development in Latin America, but also collected some lessons acquired along the way that might help it become even more effective.  What follows is a brief summary of some of those lessons.


Institutional Learning

Avina was founded as a learning organization. This core concept has allowed the organization to constantly reflect on its strategies and performance and make adjustments in order to meet new challenges and continually seek to enhance its contribution to sustainable development in Latin America.   As a result, Avina is more convinced than ever that the ability to make a difference depends on being sufficiently open and adaptable to grow along with society and on the capacity for internal innovation.

Sustainable Development
Since its inception, Avina’s mission has been to contribute to sustainable development, but in the last decade, some have begun to question whether sustainable development is possible.  Avina continues to bet on sustainability: a balance in the long term between economic, social and environmental needs.  At the same time, we have learned that this balance has a political dimension influenced by powerful interests that defend certain imbalances that work in their favor. There is no possibility of sustainability if the limits of natural systems are not recognized.  Sustainable development demands that a critical mass of economic, governmental and civic actors form coalitions to influence policy, public institutions and the economy so as to balance their interests and benefit the common good.

 

Results Management 
Every organization defines a mission or vision along with specific actions to fulfill it.  This framework provides a means to determine the consistency between what an institution says it will do and what it actually achieves. To measure Avina’s consistency, in 2007 it created a results management system for tracking its “bottom line”.  For Avina, the “results” we seek are concrete changes that improve conditions in society.  To the extent Avina and its allies contribute to these changes in a significant way, we deliver results.  Our results management system is far from perfect, but it does provide constant feedback on performance and ensures we always ask “what has changed?”, “how did we contribute?”, “was our contribution relevant?” and “how can we do better?”

 

Bridges across Sectors
Avina is a non-profit organization founded by a businessman, and through its key ally, Viva Trust, it is associated with a group of businesses. It seeks to apply best practices in the service of its mission, whether they come from the business world, civic organizations or academia.  We have learned over the years that large-scale change relevant for society depends on building coalitions with allies from different sectors. Some have criticized us for betting on the possibility of forging alliances that include entrepreneurs, businesses, civil society organizations and governmental institutions, but increasingly most serious observers recognize that only through assembling a diverse group of actors from different sectors is it possible to achieve the type of systemic changes needed for the future. In our experience, such partnerships have been a constant factor in the most significant impacts that we have accompanied over the last 15 years.

 

Latin America

Our region faces many challenges, such as inequality, social exclusion and weak institutions, but its potential for progress in coming decades is clear.  Due to its wealth of natural resources―water, biodiversity, forests and arable land―Latin America is one of the geographical areas best equipped to deal with the shortages projected for mid-century. The region’s environmental footprint is quite small compared to those of other regions, and more prosperity can be produced without expanding that footprint. In demographic terms, a benefit for the region is the size of its population that is still compatible with the natural resources base. Latin Americans live predominantly in urban areas, enabling efficient distribution of services, and the population is also characterized by a “demographic dividend”, that is, a large contingent of young people who can create conditions of greater prosperity. No other geographical region has so many advantages. If Latin America can overcome the challenges of its past, it can become a source of innovative models for a more sustainable world in the future.