Latin American Foundation for the Future

LAFF’s Innovative Approach to Sustainability


Former LAFF volunteer and current LAFF ambassador, Catriona Spaven-Donn recently gave a presentation at the Edinburgh University Sustainable Development Conference. Highlighting LAFF’s innovative strategies to promote sustainable development, Catriona pre-recorded her presentation, which was then shown at the conference. You can watch her presentation here.

At LAFF we only work through partnership with local organisations and support them in becoming self-sufficient through capacity building, income generation and cost reduction strategies. Not only this, but we also help empower the young people at the partner organisations to become independent adults by facilitating their access to secondary and higher education and by delivering engaging workshops to build their soft skills. Previous workshops have focused on self-discovery through art, developing confidence, teamwork, solving problems and improving literacy. Workshops are led by both international and local volunteers, who together provide international perspectives and participatory methodology as well as cultural knowledge and sensitivity. LAFF has recently placed a renewed focus on the monitoring and evaluation of these workshops to better monitor our support and ensure that we are always meeting the needs of the children and young people we work with.

Income generation is another of LAFF’s tools to promote sustainability among our partners. Our volunteers come equipped with business, marketing and financial management skills and work in close collaboration with our partner’s social enterprise managers. The LAFF volunteer helps address the enterprises’ most pressing needs, providing guidance as well as hands-on support. Over the years, they have managed to improve the recording of sales and expenses, conducted market research, elaborated marketing plans and established on the ground and on-line promotion strategies. This valuable support has aided the social enterprises to increase their sales and profit, resulting in the partner organisations being able to produce their own income to cover their running costs.

In addition to providing technical expertise through volunteers, LAFF has also supported partner organisations by securing funding to set up their social enterprises. In 2016 LAFF fundraised to cover the costs of ovens and machinery necessary to establish the T’anta Wasi Bakery in the touristy town of Ollantaytambo. We have high hopes for the bakery and that in the future, profits made will go towards our local partner, The Sacred Valley Project. This organisation makes secondary education available to girls from rural communities across the Sacred Valley of Cusco, providing them with accommodation, food and all educational materials they need to become bright and empowered young women.

Another one of the social enterprises we work with is Taller Mantay, a leather workshop run by our partner organisation Casa Mantay. This organisation provides legal, health, psychological and all the support needed by young mothers who have suffered sexual abuse. The workshop produces high-quality leather products and sells them in two locations in the city. In addition to providing the business with marketing expertise, LAFF acquired funding to refurbish the workshop and create an on-site shop, which has helped increase production and sales. The social enterprise not only provides and income to Casa Mantay, it also provides the young mothers living in the house the opportunity to receive training in the crafting of leather goods, and in some cases an income.

The advice provided by LAFF’s skilled volunteers has also proved to be beneficial to our local partner Mosqoy, which runs both the Tikary Youth Programme and Q’ente. Q’ente is a social enterprise that purchases traditionally made textiles from weaving collectives of women in rural communities and sells them in Peru and Canada. In 2016, LAFF provided Q’ente assistance with their financial management and marketing. This included the recommendation to host a networking dinner with key businesses in Cusco to promote the project and products. This resulted in the establishment of contracts and orders, as well as increasing local awareness of the importance of supporting weaving collectives in order to preserve culture and tradition. Likewise, LAFF’s international recognition volunteer network means that we are able to attract opportunities for our partners. For example, last year a previous LAFF volunteer put LAFF in contact with the Latin America Summit university group in Canada, which resulted in one weaving collective supported by Q’ente to receive $5,000 in funds to establish an organic dye garden.

As well as aiming to support our partner organisations to increase their income, LAFF has also helped them identify areas where running and operational costs can be reduced. Both approaches work together to increase organisational sustainability. Over 2015 and 2016, with the support of local and remote volunteers, LAFF conducted a cost reduction evaluation for our partners Azul Wasi, Mosqoy and Casa Mantay. We identified potential areas where costs could be reduced, fundraised, and coordinated the installation of solar showers. This provides the children and young people with hot water all day long as well as reduces the organisation’s electricity bill substantially.

Capacity building is another way LAFF supports self-sufficiency among our partners. In early 2017 LAFF enabled one educator from the Sacred Valley Project and one from Mosqoy to attend a workshop on methods of working with young people with trauma and teaching sexual health. The educators reported that the information learned was useful and will help them better support the young people in their care.

Based in Cusco, Peru, LAFF belongs to the regional Red Semilla Network, which unites around twenty local organisations who work with at-risk children. Members collaborate on activism and combine their individual voices to try and create policy change. In addition, they support each other with grant writing and provide capacity building workshops like the one on mentioned above. Last year a LAFF volunteer carried out a workshop on fundraising strategies for members of the network. It is hoped that by working together, the organisations can become stronger and tackle the issues that children and young people face.

To summarise our approach to fostering sustainability, at LAFF we work in partnership with local organisations, support young people in developing soft skills and self esteem, provide technical, financial and human resource support their social enterprises, cost reduction and capacity building. Helping our partners be more self-sufficient is positive on many levels from enabling them to increase their skills to having more financial resources to do their amazing work. And so to our partners, for all you do we say Thank You.