History teaches us that a true democracy is only possible to the extent that citizens involve themselves and participate directly and actively in the social, political, and economic life of a nation. Despite some advances since the signing of the Peace Accords (1996), the exclusion of community and grassroots organizations in the consolidation of democracy in Guatemala continues to be very marked and evident. The only way to reverse this tendency is the process of empowerment in terms of skills and competencies involving the aforementioned actors, as well as the creation of networks, synergy, and collaborations between them, so that comprehensive, participatory, and sustainable rural development can be achieved.
Opportunities for an organized civil society to strengthen its knowledge and stay up-to-date in order to develop its initiatives according to best practices are really quite scarce in Guatemala.
Public education teaches citizens in a very limited way about these topics, while specialized education for the civil society generally requires organizations to obtain support from international NGOs or to pay very high prices (totally out of the range of economic possibility for small community groups) in order to attend certification programs and/or Master’s courses. Additionally, almost all capacity building and institutional strengthening opportunities are held in the capital, which implies a distance that is too large and costs that are too high for practically all institutions located in remote areas.
In a context as socially, culturally, and historically heterogeneous as that of Guatemala, we believe that community organizations are the actors that best and most deeply understand the specific needs and the social priorities of their people. For this reason, EntreMundos, through this program, offers support that consolidates the abilities and competencies of the local Guatemalan organizations, empowering them toward programs that contribute to the sustainable development of the country and transforming them at the same time into multiplier agents and key actors in order to achieve positive development that is as much internal (within the institution itself) as it is for the organization’s beneficiary communities.
With this support, we aspire to create a network of organizations that:
- has the fundamental and indispensable tools for being able to face the problems of poverty, marginalization, and exclusion that are present in the country;
- can operate on a local level (rural development) and nationally (political advocacy) to improve the living conditions of civil society, principally in rural areas;
- shares its experiences and methodologies of work with other social realities of Guatemala.
Since our founding, we have worked with more than 500 rural development organizations and grassroots groups from 20 of the 22 departments in the country. Analyzing our trajectory over the last three years, it is clear that EntreMundos is increasingly recognized nationally as a leader and a reference point for NGOs and community groups throughout Guatemala. Further, it has a database in which more than 700 organizations are registered!!!
The method for choosing topics for the Community Capacity Building Program is totally participatory and is carried out as follows. At the beginning of each year, EntreMundos sends all of the organizations in its database a Participatory Diagnostic Form, in which they express their needs and requests, suggesting topics to prioritize, workshops to repeat and/or present in more depth, and workshops to create. Afterwards, the EntreMundos team organizes all of the information they have received and begins the next phase: planning and defining activities, searching for appropriate facilitators/instructors for each topic, preparing and sending invitations, carrying out the educational activities, and estimating their institutional and social impact with the ASAME (Accompaniment, Follow-up, Consultation, Monitoring, and Evaluation) method.
Since the beginning of 2015, EntreMundos began a successful process of modernizing and improving teaching methods for the Community Capacity Building Program, through innovative methods such as online platforms, webinars, and other virtual tools.
Finally, it should be mentioned that, systemically across our programs, a lot of importance is given to female participation and encouraging and favoring the presence of women (teenagers, youths, and adults) in all of our educational activities. In the same way, we push for policies and strategies for gender equality within all of the institutions that participate in EntreMundos activities, making them aware of the importance of the role of women in achieving sustainable development on a community, municipal, and national level. In the past three years, more than 60% of the people who attended the Community Capacity Building program have been female.