A Local Partner with a Global Impact
Founded over three decades ago, local Paraguayan nongovernmental organization Fundación Paraguaya started as a small office with just seven employees. Today, it has a workforce of 440 individuals spread across 28 offices in Paraguay, as well as a satellite office in Tanzania.
However, the road to Fundación Paraguaya’s present success was plagued with challenges, including the sort that affect many local organizations around the world. The primary hurdles were obtaining funding and recruiting high-quality talent, as well as some growing pains as the organization expanded in prominence.
Appreciating the vital role of partnerships in this remarkable journey, Fundación Paraguaya attributes much of its success to the technical assistance provided by USAID. In 1985, USAID's initial investment of $200,000 kickstarted a microenterprise and financial inclusion program that remains the cornerstone of Fundación Paraguaya's operations to this day.
“Fundación Paraguaya went from receiving a small grant to becoming a leading NGO that provides technical assistance to other countries. They demonstrate how local partnership leads to more sustainable, transformative, and inclusive development,” stated USAID Deputy Administrator Paloma Adams-Allen during a site visit to a Fundación Paraguaya project in March 2023.
In 2010, the organization secured its inaugural award from USAID for a microbusiness project that benefited 92,000 people. That early support from USAID played a paramount role in the project’s success and paved the way for more great work to come.
Solving Funding Challenges with Self-Sustaining Projects
Fundación Paraguaya's success lies in its resourceful, self-sustaining projects, particularly in the areas of microfinance and micro-franchise. Microfinance provides small loans and other basic financial services to low-income individuals and communities, most of whom do not have access to traditional financial services. This microfinance initiative empowers women in impoverished urban and rural settings with financial education and entrepreneurship training to start their own businesses. Micro-franchises, on the other hand, consist of a small-scale business model that allows individuals to replicate a proven business concept and brand through a low-cost and simplified franchising arrangement. The interest generated from microfinance operations and fees from micro-franchises form the backbone of Fundación Paraguaya's financial sustainability.
At the heart of Fundación Paraguaya's approach is the innovative "Poverty Stoplight'' methodology, developed with USAID support. This simple yet effective tool enables vulnerable populations to identify the specific areas in which poverty impacts their lives by using a color-coded system similar to a traffic light. By evaluating socio-economic factors such as income, health, and education, families can chart their own paths out of poverty using personalized strategies.
Over the past five years alone, the "Poverty Stoplight'' methodology has empowered approximately 35,000 Paraguayan families to overcome poverty. This transformative methodology has gained global recognition and is currently being implemented by Fundación Paraguaya in 52 countries worldwide, including in the United States in partnership with Cornell University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of California at Irvine.
“Not only did USAID help create Fundación Paraguaya almost 40 years ago, but it has always supported our antipoverty and education programs. USAID Mission Directors and staff have always encouraged us to pursue social innovations that can help spread our country's prosperity among the poor and strengthen our democracy,” noted Martin Burt, Founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya.
Gaining Organizational Strength from Local Connections and Adaptability
Fundación Paraguaya boasts an extensive nationwide presence in Paraguay. It maintains direct and meaningful connections with beneficiaries – an impressive 85,000 families! – through a diverse array of programs.
The organization's remarkable adaptability to change has helped them stay relevant and grow within an ever-evolving development landscape. A robust management structure, comprehensive succession planning, and strategic alliances are additional organizational principles that help them deliver the most impact on the communities they serve.
Most important, however, is their deep connection to the communities in which they work. “Being locally driven is a key element of our success,” emphasized Roberto Gimenez, Chief of Party of USAID’s Women’s Entrepreneurship and Resilience Project, implemented by Fundación Paraguaya. “Continuous presence in the field and close contact with families have fostered innovation and novel solutions for vulnerable communities in Paraguay and worldwide. This direct connection with local reality compels us to adapt and effectively respond to changing needs. This clear, bold vision has guided us every step of the way, keeping our purpose at the heart of our actions and decisions.”
Transforming Lives, Locally and Globally
The remarkable impact of Fundación Paraguaya's work has not gone unnoticed, as they have been honored with numerous international awards, including accolades from esteemed organizations like the Inter-American Development Bank, the Templeton Foundation, UNICEF, and the Global Development Network. However, the true measure of their success is the lives they have transformed for the better.
“I feel happy and satisfied with the support of the Fundación Paraguaya and USAID and that encourages me to continue growing and to be an example for my daughter, my family, and my fellow group members,” said Ruth Verón, an entrepreneur living in Mariano Roque Alonso, near Paraguay's capital Asunción, who participated in the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Resilience Project.
From strategic partnerships and self-sustaining projects to the groundbreaking "Poverty Stoplight'' methodology, Fundación Paraguaya's remarkable journey is a testament to the transformative power of local organizations. The organization embodies USAID’s “progress beyond programs'' ethos, shaping the communities it is a part of while making a lasting impact beyond its local reach.
Six Tips from Fundación Paraguaya for Local Organizations
- Have a strong legal, administrative, and accounting structure.
- Dare to propose new projects/ideas – be creative!
- Collaborate to increase the reach and impact of your projects.
- Identify your strengths and focus on them.
- A good team with strategic design and operational capacity is crucial.
- Lastly, think big! The work is for the world, not just your country or community.
Find out how ready your own organization is for USAID partnership by taking the WorkwithUSAID.org Pre-Engagement Assessment. This streamlined quiz provides a confidential scorecard ranking your organization’s strengths in five key areas: programming, compliance, human resources, program management, and budget and finance.