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For Community-Driven Global Development

Impact Assessment Series: Fundación Gaia Pacha

Created in 2006 by a group of young, environmentally-focused Bolivians, Fundación Gaia Pacha is a non-profit organization located in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The organization focuses on environmental education, research, environmental protection, conservation, and influencing environmental policy to address environmental challenges in Bolivia. They base their programs within four sectors: Research and Technology, Education, Environmental Policies, and Protection and Conservation. With a heavy emphasis on educating children and youth through their dynamic educational model, they involve youth through active participation. This model is highly sustainable, as they build capacity which allows participants the best methods for educating others in the future.

Their partnership with FSD began in 2011, and in this time they have hosted 13 FSD interns. The project reports for 9 of these projects as well as information from Rodrigo Meruvia, head of Fundación Gaia Pacha was analyzed by University of San Francisco student Tinuviel Carlson for this report. Rodrigo views the support Fundación Gaia Pacha has received through the FSD internship program as very beneficial for the organization. The most successful projects addressed both the needs of the community and the organization. All projects incorporated sustainability principles through the creation of educational material for future use and staff/volunteer training to promote the long-term continuation of the projects. Given that Gaia Pacha has only 5 permanent staff members, the FSD interns provided valuable support to the organization.

Intern Projects

Of the 13 FSD interns who have worked with Gaia Pacha, five of the projects were focused on climate change education and community capacity building. The projects that were most successful built relationships between Gaia Pacha and other local organizations and municipalities--relationships that have endured long after the interns left. Ultimately, these projects helped with the expansion and development of programs and worked directly with the community, local organizations, or local schools which ensured that the local community benefited.  The least sustainable project was “No Gracias, Tengo Mi Bolsa,” a campaign that aimed to reduce the amount of plastic bags used in Cochabamba. Two FSD interns tried to raise awareness by holding workshops on alternatives to plastic bags. This program was the least sustainable of those studied because there was not enough support or interest in the project to keep them maintained.

The first intern to work with Gaia Pacha in 2011 was Asia Dorsey who began a project focused on increasing the depth and effectiveness of Gaia Pacha’s environmental education program by developing a sustainable capacity building curriculum. Asia and Gaia Pacha staff developed a curriculum that would create an increased environmental knowledge through student-directed environmental projects, which also included an introduction to civic social action. The student service learning curriculum required the students to participate in a 16-hour service learning and curriculum training project, in which participants practiced their training methods by training Gaia Pacha members. This provided the participants with practice in developing their own environmental education capacity building projects. In addition, the project developed an easy to read guidebook meant to help the students develop their own service learning projects.

According to Gaia Pacha, this project was both successful and sustainable, as it assessed the capacity building needs within the organization and their goals for environmental education development. Further, the educational material created in this project was used to gain a municipal grant worth 100,000 Bolivianos (~ $14,500 USD) to use the curriculum developed in over 100 schools, leading to the first inclusive environmental education program across Bolivia.

In 2014 and 2016, FSD interns also supported educational programs but shifted to a focus on endangered species through Gaia Pacha’s “Latidos Silvestres” (Wild Heartbeats) project.  This project focuses on addressing human actions that have led to the destruction of ecosystems and the natural habitats of wildlife. Gaia Pacha sees FSD’s work for Latidos Silvestres as sustainable and an asset to the organization. In 2014, FSD intern Kelly Chang led the expansion of the “Latidos Silvestres” campaign to a younger audience by creating a children’s book and holding educational workshops in primary schools. The impact of the book was assessed immediately following the workshop and the community responded with increased awareness about animal trafficking and endangered species. In 2016, FSD intern Theresa Keith expanded on this project by creating additional materials for the workshops, including curriculum, and a booklet for use during the workshops. In order to ensure project sustainability, Theresa trained 40 local university students regarding endangered species, and 10 of those students were identified as peer trainers who would facilitate the workshop to an additional number of students.

Impact on Gaia Pacha

The relationship between Fundación Gaia Pacha and Foundation for Sustainable Development has been very beneficial for the Gaia Pacha. The majority of the projects have been very sustainable and successful for the organization itself and the local community. Further, a number of the projects have helped to build relationships with other local organizations and municipalities. The projects that were most successful addressed both the needs of the community and the organization. All of the projects, even those that were not as successfully implemented, were built on principles of sustainability through the creation of educational material for future use
and staff/volunteer training to promote the continuation of the projects. Aspects of each project have been integrated into Fundación Gaia Pacha programs, which has increased the capacity of the organization.

The FSD intern projects provide valuable human capital support to Fundación Gaia Pacha alongside the financial support. One of the biggest struggles faced by Fundación Gaia Pacha is the lack of consistent support, as the organization only has 5 permanent staffs and primarily relies on volunteer support. Thus, the FSD intern support provides them with a reliable staff member for the duration of the internship, and a fully completed and successfully implemented project.

In 2018, FSD partnered with the University of San Francisco to conduct impact assessments of the community relationships we have been able to build during more than 20 years of active partnerships across the globe. Each report focuses on a specific community partner and the support that has been provided by FSD. The information for the report was collected through final project reports, grant reports, workplan summaries, and interviews with partner staff. The full impact report was written by Tinuviel Carlson.