Gerarda Fraga Suescúm

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2000


This profile was prepared when Gerarda Fraga Suescúm was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Gerarda Fraga believes the key to successful local development is not only involving communities and local organizations in the planning, but also in the implementation and complete management of their own projects. To that end she has built a network of groups working on community development in which community members conceive and implement their own development initiatives. Each of these groups must then make a commitment to assist other local organizations through infrastructure donations, replicating training and serving as consultants. Her organization, the "Reborn Together" Center for Popular Education, operates throughout Falcon and three other states in Northwestern Venezuela.
Though community development programs are manifold, those that truly leave the decision-making, money, and development in the hands of the community members themselves are not. Gerarda's School for Community Action and Promotion (Escuela de Promocion y Accion Comunitaria) trains groups ranging from established community organizations to more informal neighborhood associations in areas such as needs assessment, proposal development and project management. Her methodology pushes communities to work with local and international state and civil society entities to improve their institutional relationships. The funds that she helps the groups raise go directly to community projects and do not pass through Gerarda's organization, unlike many similar projects. In addition to maintaining her conviction that community groups are fully capable of managing their own projects, Gerarda believes this is the wave of the future in community funding -- increasingly, foundations, governments, businesses, and even aid organizations want their funds to go directly into capable hands in the communities in which projects are being developed, rather than through intermediaries.
One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of Gerarda's program is the key to her expansion strategy: community groups and other bodies with which the Center works become the ambassadors and "multipliers" of the methodology. As a condition of their participation, each of these groups in turn must work with other development groups within their own community or nearby cities, either through training, consultation or even donations of furniture or equipment. Through this commitment she is creating a network of organizations and community groups that are inter-linked throughout the region. In addition to her community development arm, Gerarda has developed a micro-enterprise fund to provide credit for some of the income-generating community projects and to provide training, through courses to the community groups, in business development. The microenterprise activities are a pragmatic and effective source of financing and training for many of the community groups.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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