The end of a cycle is a great moment to look over what you have learned, both achievements and failures. But as part of an on-going commitment to social change, it also marks a new point of departure for the next cycle, a moment to set your sights on a new set of challenges and move forward.

 

Avina’s five year strategy cycle that ended in 2012 was pivotal in the evolution of our organization, especially as the stage in which we consolidated our approach to promoting sustainability by empowering collaboration.  For the period 2008 – 2012, we defined three major objectives: contributing to ten impacts of regional relevance for sustainable development; expanding and diversifying our “social capital” of partners, networks and allies; and building a team of change agents, capable of facing multiple challenges, negotiating shared agendas for impact and inspiring confidence through dialogue.


With the leadership and talents of our allies, and the value created by our dedicated team, we were able to contribute to some significant changes in the region.


Achievements over the past five years have reaffirmed the vision that led Avina to focus on the collaboration process in all the causes we promote in Latin America.  Evidence from the field proves the point, like the recyclers who have recovered their dignity through economic inclusion, the thousands of adults and children from vulnerable communities that now are drinking clean water, the environmental movements that have succeeded in creating new national parks.  Collaboration unlocks huge potential for making change happen in the region. But there is still a long way to go.


We are encouraged by our recent achievements to sustain our momentum and reach further in the years ahead. Latin America continues to suffer from acute social and economic inequality despite significant recent advances.  Economic growth throughout the region has been rapid, while social development has been more limited.  The ranks of the middle class are rising in Latin America, but this often comes with increased consumption and higher debt loads instead of a greater savings capacity, thus limiting social mobility.  Quality of life can also suffer from reckless development.  We see mistakes repeated, like infrastructure projects implemented without first consulting with communities that would be affected, and without regard to sustainability.


The challenges we face in Latin America remain enormous which is why it is important in the next five years for Avina to consolidate its hybrid model of social venture capital, one that incorporates financial support as one tool among many in generating real opportunities for social change with our allies.

 
Over the course of several months in 2012, our entire institution shared in a participatory planning process.  With additional input from the executive team and Board of Directors, we finalized a new strategic plan which will be the compass for our activities over the next five years, from 2013 to 2017.

 
Central to our vision is how Latin American issues fit into a global context. As one example, we are very concerned about the impact of demand from resource-hungry Asian economies for vast amounts of mineral wealth from South and Central America.  This demand is strong enough to overpower national agendas for sustainable development, where they exist.  Countless cases of social and environmental conflicts are testament to this trend. The challenge is to define how to move toward a value-added economy that is capable of providing guarantees of sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth, changing the formula that equates that growth with destruction and exportation of natural wealth.


During the strategic planning process, we also decided to refine our mission statement and to make adjustments to the way we will operate in the next few years, which we call Augmenting Impact.  We will continue to act and innovate in order to tackle the key challenges facing the region.  One of the biggest is overcoming inequality by generating public goods and services that promote inclusion and equity.   The other big task is to provide encouraging examples of how a new sustainable economy can produce prosperity more efficiently.


We can take the example of the economy.  Until very recently our reference was the “lost decades”, but the region has enjoyed several years of impressive progress in many countries which, if we make the right choices, future generations may refer to as the “great turn-around”.  Our goal at Avina is to build on the favorable economic and social trends, to lay the foundation for several productive decades ahead.  In that vein, we see business and technological innovations as critical components in the solutions to social and environmental problems, especially those solutions benefitting people at the base of the economic pyramid. This is why we are currently building alliances with innovators, and honing Avina’s role as “translator” between the worlds of business, technology and traditionally marginalized communities for the benefit of all three.


Of course our institutional cornerstone remains the same: the alliances for sustainable development that we have established with social, governmental and business leaders, their organizations and networks.  It is through these alliances and by encouraging effective collaboration among them that Avina creates value.  Likewise, we will redouble our efforts to align our support and invest together with other foundations, international entities and philanthropists who have shared priorities and values.


Although 2012 was a dynamic year with heightened uncertainly in the region and around the globe, Avina's commitment to the betterment of Latin American society has remained steadfast and the organization has renewed purpose and energy as we begin implementing our new five-year plan in 2013.  With the collaboration of our allies and team, I have no doubt that we will achieve our common objectives for the benefit of Latin America.


I want to acknowledge and thank the team members that make up the institution, as all of Avina's progress in 2012 was made possible only through their commitment and dedication.


In the name of the whole team I would like to congratulate Sean McKaughan, who in January stepped into his new role as chairman of Avina's board of directors. We are privileged to have someone of his experience, commitment and vision in such a vital position of leadership. Together we will continue to expand our organization’s capacity and relevance for the evolving challenges in the region and beyond.


Likewise, I would also like to thank our partners and allies, with whom we share values and a vision that inspire us to action toward a sustainable future for Latin America. Reading the examples in this report, you will see that through collaboration we have the capacity to achieve great things.


Finally, please allow me to share how I feel as Avina’s new Chief Executive.  After 12 years of working in our institution, I am happy and humbled to take on these new responsibilities, and will do so with the same passion that continues to motivate me each day as we help shape a more promising future for our region.  I can accept this challenge because of my confidence in our institutional commitment to Latin America, the relevance of Avina’s contribution to its future, and the remarkable dedication of my colleagues to our common cause.

 

Gabriel Baracatt

Chief Executive Officer

Photo: Teresita Chavarría

Gabriel Baracatt

 

With the leadership and talents of our allies, and the value created by our dedicated team, we were able to contribute to some significant changes in the region.