Inter-American Foundation

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Inter-American Foundation
TypeForeign assistance agency
HeadquartersWashington, DC, United States
Paloma Adams-Allen
$22.5 million (FY 2017)[1]

The Inter-American Foundation, or IAF, is an independent agency of the United States government that funds development projects undertaken by grassroots groups and nongovernmental organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was created through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1969[2] as an experimental alternative to traditional foreign assistance that operates government-to-government on a much larger scale. The IAF receives its funds through annual allocations by Congress and from the Social Progress Trust Fund[3] administered by the Inter-American Development Bank and consisting of payments on U.S. government loans extended under the Alliance for Progress to various Latin American and Caribbean governments. Since beginning operations in 1972, the IAF has awarded 4,920 grants worth more than $665 million.[4]

The IAF has had a low profile because of its comparatively small budget. However, during the mid-1980s, the IAF received some national attention when it became a political battleground for President Ronald Reagan and Congressional Democrats.[citation needed]


Representative Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) was the architect of the legislation to establish the Inter-American Foundation, which redesigned foreign aid to benefit the poorest of people in developing countries.[5]

With his articles in Foreign Affairs and his book The Engines of Change, Harvard professor George C. Lodge significantly influenced the intellectual climate that led to the passage of the IAF's enabling legislation. Most notably, Lodge wrote that poverty was the greatest threat to U.S. interests in the Americas. In “U.S. Aid to Latin America: Funding Radical Change,” which appeared in Foreign Affairs in July 1969.,[6] he urged creation of an “American Foundation [to] find and fund the engines of change which work directly to revolutionize Latin American social and political structures.” Lodge was appointed to the IAF's founding board of directors in 1971.[7]

Mission statement[edit]

“…it shall be the purpose of the foundation, primarily in cooperation with private regional and international organizations, to

  1. strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding among the peoples of this hemisphere;
  2. support self-help efforts designed to enlarge the opportunities for individual development;
  3. stimulate and assist effective and ever wider participation of the people in the development process;
  4. encourage the establishment and growth of democratic institutions, private and governmental, appropriate to the requirements of the individual sovereign nations of this hemisphere.” —Part IV, Section 401(b), Foreign Assistance Act of 1969

The guiding principle of the Inter-American Foundation is responsiveness to the ideas of organized people who are willing to invest and risk their own resources.

Grant program[edit]

The IAF funds initiatives received in response to its call for proposals from grassroots groups and the organizations that support them in Latin America and the Caribbean. Projects are selected for funding on the basis of merit rather than by sector. Successful applicants receive between US$25,000 and US$400,000 over a period of from one to five years. IAF grantees are required to contribute in cash or in kind toward the success of their projects and are encouraged to mobilize resources to continue their impact after their IAF funding has ended. The IAF does not accept proposals presented or directed by government entities or by entities outside the country in which the project is located; proposals from individuals; proposals associated with political parties or partisan movements; proposals for purely religious or sectarian activities; proposals for pure research; proposals for welfare projects of any kind; proposals from charitable institutions; or proposals solely for construction and/or equipment. The IAF looks for the following in a project it funds: innovative solutions; creative use of community resources; feasibility; a diverse array of community voices in project development and execution; substantial beneficiary engagement in (a) the identification of the problem addressed, (b) the approach chosen to solve it, (c) the design of the project, and (d) management and evaluation of activities; partnerships with local government, the business community and other civil society organizations; a potential for strengthening all participating organizations and their partnerships; evidence of eventual sustainability; counterpart contributions from beneficiaries and other sources as well as from the proponent; the potential to generate learning; measurable results; evidence of enhanced capacity for self-governance.[8]

Fellowship program[edit]

The IAF is the only institution that specifically funds research targeting grassroots development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its Fellowship Program launched in 1974 has supported doctoral students, post-doctoral researchers, master's degree candidates and, between 1991 and 1995 a handful of outstanding Latin American and Caribbean grassroots leaders awarded the Dante B. Fascell Inter-American Fellowship to pursue independent study. Alumni now total 1,047 individuals; they worked in 35 countries and represent 117 U.S. universities in 36 states. [citation]

Between 2000 and 2006 the IAF suspended all Fellowships for budgetary reasons. In 2007, one component was reinstated: support for doctoral dissertation research undertaken by students in U.S. universities who have advanced to Ph.D. candidacy. Information and application procedures can be found at

Organizational structure[edit]

The Inter-American Foundation is governed by a board of directors appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Six members are drawn from the private sector and three from the federal government. A president, appointed by the board, serves as the Inter-American Foundation's chief executive officer. The current president is Paloma Adams-Allen.[9] Previous presidents have included Robert Kaplan (2010-2017), Larry Palmer (2005–2010),[10] David Valenzuela (2000–2005), George Evans (1994–1999), William Perrin (1990–1994), Deborah Szekely (1984 to 1990),[11] Peter Bell (1980–1983) and William Dyal (1971–1980).


Detailed information on grassroots approaches to improving conditions for the poor and disadvantaged can be found in the IAF's annual report[4] and in its journal, Grassroots Development.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FY 2019 Congressional Budget Justification - Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs" (PDF). U.S. Department of State. February 12, 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 12, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  2. ^ [1], Foreign Assistance Act 1969
  3. ^ [2], Social Progress Trust Fund
  4. ^ a b [3], IAF Annual Report.
  5. ^ [], Dante B. Fascell Bio
  6. ^ [4], U.S. Aid to Latin America: Funding Radical Change
  7. ^ [5], George C. Lodge Bio.
  8. ^ [6], IAF Grant Program
  9. ^ [7], Inter-American Foundation Names New President
  10. ^ [8], IAF’s New President Begins (Larry Palmer)
  11. ^ Szekely Bio: "Deborah's Life". [undated]. Archived from the original on May 1, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2019. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ [9], Grassroots Development Journal.

External links[edit]