Is Groundswell International a legally recognized non-profit organization?
Yes. Groundswell International was established as a not-for-profit corporation under the laws of the District of Columbia in October 2009, and was recognized as tax-exempt pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in August 2010. Contact us for a copy of our 501(c)3 determination letter.
How much of my donation is spent on program and how much on administration?
We work hard to use our resources efficiently and for greatest impact. Our approach of strengthening community-based organizations to create, manage, spread and sustain positive changes in their own lives is low cost and does not generate dependencies on external funding. Since our founding, Groundswell has spent between 90% and 88% (depending on the year) of our total revenue on implementing overseas programs, while just 10% to 12% were spent on overhead for administration and fundraising.
Why does Groundswell not appear on Charity Navigator?
Charity Navigator evaluates organizations that have filed four or more Form 990s with the IRS, and which also have “public support to be more than $500,000 and total revenue more $1,000,000 in the most recent fiscal year.” Groundswell was founded in 2009 and has filed three 990s. Also, our total revenue was under $1,000,000 in 2011. As soon as Groundswell is eligible, we will seek a Charity Navigator evaluation. In the meantime, we are registered with Guidestar (where our Form 990s are available to registered organizations and individuals), and our audited financial statements and other key documents may be downloaded from our website.
What makes Groundswell different from the hundreds of other international development organizations?
The main difference between Groundswell’s approach and the approaches of most other organizations is that we focus on building local capacity and using local resources to address needs rather than importing outside solutions. Even after five decades of systematic failures in getting the rural poor to believe in externally-based knowledge and technology, most other organizations continue to push their outside solutions, in which the communities the support have no ownership. Conversely, we have committed our organizational resources to strengthening “people’s science” and enabling community-led responses as complements to more conventional expert knowledge and technology. Groundswell partners focus on strengthening local leadership and organizations to come up with their own solutions through a practical, “learning by doing” approach to addressing basic needs.
What does Groundswell’s approach look like on the ground?
Groundswell partners succeed where so many others fail largely because they focus on strengthening local leadership and organizations through a practical, “learning by doing” approach to addressing basic needs. This approach draws on lessons from similar efforts in developing countries around the world, and is adapted to the local context and continually improved under local leadership. As a result, it looks somewhat different everywhere, but to illustrate how it generally works, we will describe the approach as it looks in Haiti.
Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL), Groundswell’s partner in Haiti, supports community groups to identify priority issues, start small and experiment to find workable solutions. The mobilization and use of local assets is prioritized. Haitian peasants organize themselves around activities that generate benefits at the levels of gwoupman (solidarity groups of 8-15 people), and later form village coordinating committees and inter-village associations. From the bottom up, these community-based organizations plan and manage their own activities to sustainably increase agricultural production, income generation, and food security; to create savings and credit funds, seeds banks and tools banks; to promote community and reproductive health; and to advocate for access to services and more democratic and responsive local government.
When successful approaches are identified, the peasant organizations spread them among farmers, families and villages through volunteer promoters and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. Experience has shown that people learn better from their neighbors who have achieved successes while facing similar circumstances, as opposed to from external experts promoting technological packages that may not be accessible or sustainable over the long term. This is truly community sustained agriculture!
As community members begin to generate success related to their prioritized concerns or “entry points,” their enthusiasm is strengthened and they move on to address related and wider concerns. In this manner the approach is community-led, evolves according to local priorities, and is holistic – rather than being pre-defined according to the interests or priorities of external organizations.
PDL uses a five-stage model of capacity strengthening that allows it adjust its support role to local needs and organizational capacities as the process evolves. The end vision is to strengthen local autonomy to increase food production, community health and meet other basic needs while avoiding the generation of dependencies. For example: stage one may include more support for technical activities such as agricultural experimentation or establishing savings and credit groups; stage three may focus on strengthening management and the capacity to plan and monitor; and stage five may focus on networking with other peasant organizations to address wider challenges. Using this five stage model, PDL plans its transition out of direct support from the beginning of its engagement with peasant organizations
What do you mean when you describe Groundswell as a “global partnership”?
Groundswell’s founders intentionally opted for a decentralized partnership structure of local civil society organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and resource people working effectively in their countries and also able to learn and act together on common global agendas. We seek to move away from the limitations of traditional, centralized global NGO structures, while developing and maintaining effective, agile and efficient mechanisms for international collaboration and support. We prioritize downward accountability to rural communities, rather than upward accountability to external development agendas. Local NGO partners help define Groundswell’s strategic directions and priorities, strengthen the quality of each other’s work, and collaborate on global action-learning and influencing agendas focused on small-farmer agro ecology and local food systems. Groundswell’s coordination staff supports the local NGO partners by strengthening program development, facilitating learning on effective practices, and developing multi-country action-learning and influencing programs, and through fundraising, strengthening administrative capacities, communicating our stories and messages, and linking to strategic partnerships and global networks. We are committed to the global partnership of Groundswell because together we are stronger and can have a great impact in support of rural communities.
How does Groundswell fund its work?
We raise funds through grants and individual donations. While grants are vital, they often come with certain restrictions. Your support for flexible community-led development allows us to build relationships with people, support them to organize and develop their plans, strengthen their work, and adjust as we go. This makes it possible for communities to lead the process of improving their farming, growing more food, and transforming local economies. If outsiders lead the process or bring the answers, it stops. We strengthen communities to create their own change. That is what makes us different.
Who are your key supporters?
All of our supporters are important. We rely on donations from hundreds of individuals as well as grants from more than a dozen foundations and organizations, including Oxfam America, the Swift Foundation, Lutheran World Relief, the Vista Hermosa Foundation, American Jewish World Service, the Boston Foundation, the Columbus Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, and many more.