FSD achieves community-driven goals through asset-based development and international exchange in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
START WITH ASSETS, NOT PROBLEMS
We take an asset-based approach to development work. We begin by listening to the priorities set by our community-based partners at our international program sites. We then identify and utilize existing assets and capacity to address those priorities.
MOTIVATE COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP
We partner with leaders, organizations, and stakeholders committed to change, action, and social justice. We stress community ownership and participation before launching initiatives, especially in our volunteer and student programs.
GENERATE ENDURING RESULTS AND IMPACT
We ensure the outcomes of our support have long-lasting benefits for our partners. We think hard about how to participate appropriately and effectively in development, and on how to become redundant so that our initiatives outlast our involvement.
We strengthen the skills, competencies, and abilities of the leaders of our community-based partners and of our student and professional volunteers. We educate and train, facilitating the sharing of best practices across all of our stakeholders to support our partners’ priorities.
BE A BRIDGE
We relentlessly build a network of students, professionals, and passionate advocates for our community-based partners to access. We connect this network of assets and volunteers with the work of our partners through our international exchange and grantmaking programs.
We share our experiences and learnings about the complexities of development with friends, family, and colleagues. We promote cultural exchange and sensitivity, encouraging a reflective approach to navigating cross-cultural issues, confusions, and tensions.
We operate on our founding principle that producing strong community outcomes must be the priority. We base all partnerships, strategies, and decisions on the Fair Trade Learning concept that we must be ethical and reciprocal in our planning, implementation, and outcomes.
MAKING CONNECTIONS FOR GREATER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE IMPACT
The power to end poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity is in people. Every person can make a difference. Every person is powerful and has something to contribute. When people work together they are even more powerful. We are committed to uniting people for the common good. Our approach focuses on mobilizing resources—human, economic, and natural—for sustainable, life-changing initiatives. We use an asset-based community development approach that encourages self-reliance and inspires an appreciation of existing resources in the community and the confidence to build upon them. We constantly challenge ourselves and others to do more with what we have. We believe that with an attitude of resourcefulness, positive change is possible even in low-resource settings. We facilitate change by bringing together voices of the community, the ongoing efforts of local groups and organizations, and the local resources identified in the community, connecting them with international students, professionals, and donors who want to make a difference. Because better results come from working together, we strive to combine diverse experiences, talents, and perspectives to make stronger outcomes. Because we believe that respecting diverse perspectives is critical for constructive dialogue and meaningful progress, we deliberately seek out those perspectives and engage the community in dialogue around important issues. In this way, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We put our heads together with the community at the lead to address issues and bring solutions into reality in a sustainable and locally-appropriate way.
HOW WE WORK — OUR MODEL
We begin by listening to our community. Our community consists of local NGOs and community members in 6 countries, universities, students, alumni, staff, donors, and socially responsible companies. We listen to what each is seeking to accomplish and what they have to give. We identify community priorities and from there build programs. At each program site, we work with a wide range of grassroots community development organizations addressing issues important to their community such as access to clean water, sustainable agriculture, income generation, education, gender equity, and health care. We have local staff on the ground who are members of that community and who stay in touch with what’s happening. The agenda is set by those local community development organizations. They put forward their ideas and initiatives to improve the quality of life in their community. FSD then works to mobilize human resources, funds, skills, and knowledge to support those locally-led initiatives. FSD works with universities, companies, civic groups and individuals interested in engaging in collaborative, on-the-ground development work alongside local grassroots leaders. FSD provides training and orientation to those students and volunteers as well as facilitating on-going learning and reflection. In each placement, FSD blends the interests and talents of these people with local knowledge and expertise to develop and implement sustainable development projects in the community. To complement this flow of human resources and the accompanying knowledge exchange, FSD offers two kinds of grant programs. First, a competitive grant fund administered by FSD itself. Second, we facilitate the formation of giving circles to act as mini-foundations making grants to community development organizations in our program sites.