Photo: Matías Recart

Avina's approach has evolved during nearly two decades since its founding, and can be summed up in three stages:


Leadership

In the early years, Avina discovered the power of individual leadership within the process of social change. Just as business entrepreneurs launch innovations for the marketplace, behind important social and environmental advances are individuals who assume leadership, motivate and mobilize others with their vision, and dedicate their lives to improving conditions in favor of the common good. In its first stage of evolution, Avina identified such leaders in civil society and the private sector and established alliances with them to support their initiatives for change. We learned that leadership is critical for change, but is not sufficient by itself. A good team, a solid organization and personal and professional support systems are also key factors.  Good leaders cultivate other leaders and create trust. To create wide-scale change, a leader must know how to build alliances and join forces with others. The leader has to work with a diversity of actors and constantly learn and evolve with them.

Networks 

In its second phase, Avina began placing more emphasis on relationships among leaders by creating platforms for building trust and what we call “social capital”.  Social capital is a network of relationships based on trust, and it reduces transaction costs.  Social capital facilitates and accelerates collaboration and collective action.  To encourage trust and build social capital, Avina supported exchanges between different sectors and regions, among leaders from various countries and organizations with different missions. These exchanges led to the creation of new groups, new networks and associations, sped up the dissemination of best practices and strengthened coalitions and alliances, new and old.  Avina learned that networks and forums for exchanges are vital, that creating trust and social capital is an efficient investment in building social resilience, and that the quality of relationships impacts the quality of change. But exchanges and networks aren't sufficient to create the conditions for change on a large scale. Change requires a common objective, an opportunity or a tipping point that arises, and a shared plan of action.  When an opportunity for impact is identified, the formation of social capital around that opportunity can produce a collaborative process of great potential.


Collaborative Process  

Avina’s work today fully incorporates the principles and lessons learned in the previous stages of the foundation. Avina continues to work with leaders and recognize their importance in the process of social change. Avina also continues to support networks and to build trust and social capital.  To these key activities Avina adds its identification of opportunities for impact on a scale that is relevant for Latin America.   We focus our support for leaders, networks and social capital around tipping points that can shift the balance in the region.  Our strategies are aimed at generating collaborative processes and aligning shared actions plans around a common vision.  It is through collaborative change processes Avina creates conditions that favor systemic change in communities, cities and countries.  These processes involve diverse participants from different sectors and points of view who share a vision for the future that leads them to work together.  Leaders and their networks are key elements of these processes, but so are other actors such as government officials, international organizations, civic and grassroots associations, companies, business groups and academia, among others. Results from this approach have been promising, and Avina will continue to learn and reinvent itself to become more effective in its contribution to the sustainable development of Latin America.