Ximena Abogabir Scott is implementing a new approach in the field of informal environmental education that will both enhance the effectiveness of the numerous organizations that are currently working in that field and stimulate urgently needed citizen participation in more general civic activities. Her initiative employs a well-planned and coordinated combination of new educational materials, training, networking and a publicity campaign.
CASE STUDY: Growth Through Limitations
Casa de la Paz is dedicated to improving the quality of life for its citizens through the care of the environment and the promotion of democracy. In the 1990s as Chilean CSOs were losing previous funding sources, Casa de la Paz decided to begin selling its capacity building and educational products and services. However, like many CSOs, the organization faced the challenge of generating its own revenues while staying true to its original mission.
Citizen Base Strategy
To meet this challenge, Ximena Abogabir Scott is implementing a new approach in the field of informal environmental education that will both enhance the effectiveness of the numerous organizations that are currently working in that field and stimulate urgently needed citizen participation in more general civic activities. Her initiative employs a well-planned and coordinated combination of new educational materials, training, networking and a publicity campaign.
Rather than working through a single organization, Abogabir has chosen to direct her energies to improving the effectiveness and impact of some 300 organizations already engaged in that field. And, unlike most "green activists," whose principal motivation is to prevent further environmental degradation, Abogabir views the environmental movement as a critically important catalytic instrument for engaging the country's citizenry more broadly in civic action.
Casa de la Paz uses criteria based on mission and sustainability-related goals that take into account three key aspects before taking on a potential new income generation project. First, does the project relate to the organization’s mission? Second, does the organization have the competencies (skills and knowledge) needed to undertake the project? And third, does the project fill a market need and are there organizations or individuals who want or need this service or product? Through this approach, Casa de la Paz ensures that it can fulfill its mission and that it has the internal capacity and external funding needed to fulfill its commitments and sustain itself.
Casa de la Paz will only take on or pursue projects that are related to its mission and is not afraid to turn down non-mission oriented projects. When Shell Corporation came to them with the idea of doing an environmental education project, the organization made sure that it was compatible with its mission to care for the environment and promote democracy. The organization has been known to turn down projects that were not compatible with its mission.
To ensure that the organization has the competencies needed to undertake the project, Casa de la Paz will determine the human resource skills required by the project, assess whether it has these skills as part of its core staff and consultants, and then decide whether it should pursue the project or refer it to another, more appropriate, organization. To be most effective, Casa de la Paz has developed capacities to meet its diverse clientele interests and styles. Public clients are more bureaucratic whereas private firms prefer to have a say and form a strategic partnership. The CSO, on the other hand, wants a low cost product that is attuned to their realities.
Casa de la Paz will only take on projects if they fulfill a market need and can pay for themselves. Given that the organization relies on fees for its own sustainability, Casa de la Paz will not take on a project that cannot be funded. The organization must ensure that core staff and administrative costs will be covered. However, in order to avoid becoming client driven, Casa de la Paz complements selling services to individuals and organizations with the pursuit of donor funds for projects that the organization itself wants to undertake.
Through this strategy, Casa de la Paz has expanded and diversified its client base beyond teachers and CSOs to private corporations and public institutions. By so doing, Casa de la Paz has expanded and strengthened its mission, now engaging all sectors in environmental education including the corporate and state sectors. It currently generates 19 percent (approximately US $78,700) of its resources from the sale of services and has transitioned from a heavily outside funded organization in the last decade to one with a diversified funding base and a wide range of constituency groups.
Ximena Abogabir Scott was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.