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Community-Led Response to Mexico’s Earthquakes

Community-Led Response to Mexico’s Earthquakes

by Gabriela Boyer, Seth Jesse, and Michael Layton*

By Inter-American Foundation on Comment

At the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), we don't deliver emergency relief, so when disasters such as the 2017 Mexico earthquakes strike, we face a bit of a conundrum: How do we remain true to our mandate to support grassroots development while being responsive to our community partners and acknowledging the changes that natural disasters bring?

In the past, we helped our community partners get their development grants back on track through adjustments to activities and budgets, always relying on their knowledge, skills and adaptability. Our Grassroots Development journal notes our response to two such challenges: the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and hurricanes Stan and Mitch in Central America.

In the case of the 2017 Mexico earthquakes, while many Mexican and international funders stepped up to provide immediate humanitarian relief, the remaining challenge is to address the difficult task of rebuilding. Toward this end, we're relying on the country’s community foundation sector to forge an innovative approach to the long-term recovery in affected communities. Community foundations, which cover a specific geographic region and are represented by local leaders, are often the first responders to local natural disasters.

Foundations for Rebuilding Communities

Mexican community foundations took leading roles in immediate emergency response efforts to the earthquakes. These foundations are poised to lead inclusive long-term recovery and development. Over the last 12 years, the IAF and C.S. Mott Foundation (Mott Foundation) have supported the development of an effective and self-reliant community foundation sector in Mexico. Building on this experience, the IAF and Mott Foundation are promoting the Partnership to Support Post-Earthquake Recovery in Mexico, a two-pronged effort. First, working with four community foundations in the affected states of Morelos, Oaxaca, Mexico State and Puebla, the Partnership will forge an innovative approach to mobilize resources to support long term recovery. Second, the Partnership will provide opportunities for training in disaster preparedness. 

Mexico Earthquake Recovery and Disaster Preparedness Fund

The heart of the Partnership is a challenge grant fund, the Mexico Earthquake Recovery and Disaster Preparedness Fund, which builds on the modest core contribution of the IAF and the Mott Foundation by mobilizing additional resources from U.S. and Canadian institutions, which will then be matched by Mexican philanthropic entities, corporations, and community foundations. The IAF will make funds and technical assistance available to community foundations operating in the affected areas to support community-led rebuilding initiatives, and to develop the capacity of Mexico’s community foundation sector to prepare for and respond to future disasters.

The Goals

The primary goal of the Partnership is to support long-term recovery efforts of Mexican community foundations in the areas most severely affected by the earthquakes. A secondary goal is to build the capacity of Mexican community foundations to address long-term recovery and disaster preparedness.

Because the Mexican community foundations know best their local context, the Partnership seeks to unlock funds they can match with local resources to reach the greatest numbers of communities in need. This is not charity; nor is it humanitarian relief. Rather, it is designed to be a locally-led long term approach to post-disaster rebuilding that:

  • Improves the resilience of affected communities to future natural disasters.
  • Enhances the capacity of community members and local organizations to anticipate and respond to natural disasters, including psychosocial support for traumatized communities.
  • Creates opportunities to improve food security and strengthen the resilience of community enterprises.
  • Multiplies a modest IAF (taxpayer) investment in the rebuilding effort, thereby greatly increasing its impact

In addition to being a vehicle for providing funding, the Partnership supports capacity-building, knowledge exchange and peer learning between Mexican community foundations and their counterparts in other countries who have experience in recovering from and preparing for natural disasters.

Building for the launch

The IAF and the Mott Foundation are mobilizing funds in the U.S. and Canada, first by establishing a leadership group of founding partners who will contribute to a core fund. Nearly $550,000 in core funds have been committed to date. Notably, the Silicon Valley Community FoundationEl Paso Community Foundation and the International Community Foundation have recently joined the effort.

We are working with the Council on Foundations, CFLeads, and other organizations and community foundations in Mexico and the U.S. to draw attention to the fund and raise matching funds.

Currently at the IAF, we are issuing requests for proposals from four community foundations in the affected states and from Mexican or U.S.-based civil society organizations capable of training Mexico’s community foundations on issues related to long-term recovery and disaster preparedness.

Community-led philanthropy has the potential to make a critical difference in helping communities recover and to be resilient in the face of natural disasters. We are confident that Mexican community foundations possess the experience and skills to spur bottom-up recovery and development.

You can donate to the Mexico Earthquake Recovery and Disaster Preparedness Fund through our portal. Click below to learn more. 



Editor's note: This blog has been updated to add new funding sources and to increase the amount of the core fund to its current level. 


*Gabriela Boyer is the Inter-American Foundation Representative for Nicaragua and for community asset mobilization initiatives.

Seth Jesse is the Inter-American Foundation Representative for Mexico.

Michael Layton is an independent consultant for the IAF and currently serves as a Senior Program Specialist.

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