The Avina Foundation’s approach for systemic change

Bridging impactful alliances to create systemic change through accessible innovations and sustainable models. The interview with Gabriel Baracatt, CEO Avina Foundation & Fernando Rueda Koster, Strategic Partnership Europe

The Avina Foundation’s approach for systemic change

Fundación Avina is a Latin American foundation, created in 1994, which incubates and supports innovative processes to build collaboration with actors from different sectors, joining technology, social innovation and new business models to produce large scale and lasting impact.

Avina operates to accelerate social change through innovation moving from one principle: no one can achieve social change alone. With presence in 21 Countries and more than 5,000 allies from social, business, education, and government, Avina has contributed over $1 billion among own funds and leveraged resources to promote systemic change.

We discussed with Gabriel Baracatt, CEO Avina Foundation & Fernando Rueda Koster, in charge of European Strategic Partnerships, the Foundation’s model and results, highlighting how a Theory of Change can constitute a base for impactful cross-sector alliances.


At Fundación Avina you base your work on building partnerships with the government, communities, and private players to create collaborations and synergies. What is the role of a Theory of Change working with different actors?

We begin from an assumption: we don’t know what change is, there is no general theory of reality. Change resides in the actors involved and in our ability to create the conditions for these actors to join their resources.

A Theory of Change is the tool that allows the incipit and correct functioning of a collaborative process, not only defining the necessary model to achieve the target impact but also clarifying expectations, roles, goals of all actors involved. When these components are aligned it is relatively easy to work together. A theory of change can represent the engine for collaborating and for aggregating everyone’s resources towards a common goal.


In these years the Avina Foundation has been able to achieve notable results. 12 million Mexican migrants in the United States expanding their voting rights, 3 million Latin Americans gaining access to safe water through democracy governance of water resources and the development of public and private alliances… just to name a few impressive data. What is your model for measuring your social impact and the approach you elected?

For us impact is the key and a good monitoring system is fundamental. We use a dedicated proprietary model and always move with counter-factual data corroborated internally, with our external allies, and with final beneficiaries that, eventually, are the true validators of impact data.

Also, we normally cross compare this information with external and Country data. This is our approach to impact monitoring and measurement in quantitative terms. Then, depending on the project, we also proceed with more qualitative integrations but without clear numerical data it would be very difficult to really track – and assess – the difference we want to make.


The Avina Foundation operates also through impact investing. How does this strategy fit into your work?

Impact investing is something we experiencing as another tool towards social change: we have high expectations for this sector and expect it could deliver impressive results as microfinance has been doing for years. In our agenda we want to launch new societal models able to create sustainable growth – that’s why we launched Ikatu Ventures, an organization that can be an ally for companies working for environmental preservation, social inclusion, renewable energies… Ikatu sides potentially impactful SMEs to help them become investable and attract capitals.


Could you give us an example of how you pull together non-profits and business players to achieve common interests?

For example in Chile there was a terrible opposition between energy companies and local civic organizations on the construction of a large dam in Patagonia. We worked side by side with energy companies, universities, local groups and the Government producing a study that demonstrated how the big dam was not feasible without a radical change in the Country energetic matrix.

And that led to a fundamental – and superior – result, i.e. the launch of the new Chile Energy Policies up to 2030. Something that, in the end, was necessary for the good of local communities, for the environment, and for business too. That’s the point: our purpose is to be facilitators and creators of the conditions able to reunite different actors with shared values around a common goal. Sometimes the essence of systemic change is going beyond the immediate focus to envision the ground for long-term benefits for the different stakeholders involved.


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