- Training Programs
- our sites
- our work
- ways to give
- contact us
I started the Foundation for Sustainable Development in 1995 while working on my doctorate in economics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After numerous volunteering stints in Latin America, I realized that countless community leaders and grassroots organizations were doing incredible work, but were limited in terms of human and financial resources. These were people with full-time jobs who didn’t go home at the end of the day. Rather, they voluntarily worked around the clock to help their communities find a way out of poverty.
It was painful and frustrating to see the limitations these organizations faced because they often didn't have the resources needed to accomplish their objectives. After seeing the same story over and over, I committed myself to starting FSD.
From the beginning, I did my homework. By observing other organizational models in action, I quickly realized what I did not want FSD to become:
- A donor organization that funds projects it does not oversee (I saw so much money wasted on inefficient or corrupt projects that were insufficiently planned or monitored)
- An organization that was reliant on grants that could force me to shift my development vision—a phenomenon known all too well as mission creep
- A volunteer organization that simply connected culturally inexperienced, untrained “Westerners” with local organizations that knew little about hosting foreigners (in the long term, this route is sometimes beneficial to the volunteer, but often fails to develop sustainable organizations or empowered communities)
- A well-intentioned international organization that patronizingly imposes utopian development solutions on communities who have little participation or ownership in the projects
I wanted FSD to be a development organization, first and foremost, that empowers underserved communities to voice their needs and participate in the implementation of locally managed solutions. I worked to create a feedback loop to ensure the flow of communication and resources between community leaders, their grassroots organizations, interns and volunteers, donors, and the FSD staff - which is made up of local community leaders and trained practitioners from Western nations. Central to the vision would be a binding adherence to the truth that development solutions are only sustainable when they come from an empowered community base.
In 1996, after cultivating a sustainable organizational model and development philosophy, I established our first work site in Nicaragua. Five interns worked with local organizations that summer, establishing FSD as a positive community presence and setting the precedent for years to come.
Over these last 17 years, FSD has steadily grown to include more than 300 community partners spread throughout ten sites in six countries. Our community impact continues to exponentially rise due to the strength of our staff and our commitment to sustainable principles.
However, none of the growth would be possible without the time and resources given to FSD by the people who care about global poverty and sustainable development. I hope my story inspires you to get involved in any capacity to bring greater equality and opportunity to people throughout the world.