Innovation and Acceleration in the Amazon Region Purpose Climate Lab
IARA (Innovation and Acceleration in the Amazon Region) is a capacity-building program designed to strengthen activist groups and organizations working in the Amazon.
In the program’s second edition, Purpose supported 10 organizations from 4 amazon region states with institutional development and campaigning related to national and state-level elections in Brazil.
The Amazon plays a key role in the climate agenda. The forest is at the center of the most important global emergency challenges, as much as it is at the center of the most important global emergency solutions. Despite this, however, the current discussion on the Amazon is still far from the reality of its territories.
Local activists have little space in strategic forums to address their demands and proposals, and have limited access to resources and tools to be able to carry out campaigns and develop initiatives institutionally.
The Amazon organizations’ ecosystem adds unique value to the climate debate on local-, national- and global-levels and must play a leading role in both finding and delivering solutions. With restricted access to resources, however, impact and growth are limited.
IARA was created to structure institutional development and campaign acceleration for organizations in the Amazon, by understanding the advance of actors as opportunities to unlock cultural and political changes from a local perspective, and also to build a climate movement that is more diverse and inclusive.
In light of the environmental agenda dismantling, undertaken since 2019 by the previous Brazilian federal government – including successive attacks on social movements and civil society organizations – strengthening of this ecosystem has become increasingly necessary. In this context, moreover, the last two years of Bolsonaro’s government, culminating in the 2022 elections, have become an opportunity for creating a political agenda for the territory, guided by the perspective of climate justice and led by Amazon voices.
Theory of Change
If we create an institutional support structure and help accelerate campaigns for activists and organizations in the Amazon, we can strengthen activism in the region and better understand the challenges of local communities in order to unlock perception and ecosystem changes from a local perspective and create a network of partners for acting in the region.
IARA’s visual identity expresses the Amazon region’s great diversity, with a color palette and elements resembling nature, city, people, communication and activism.
IARA (which stands for “Innovation and Acceleration in the Amazon Region” in its Portuguese acronym) is a capacity-building program designed to support organizations in the Amazon on institutional strengthening and campaign development. They promote both cultural and political changes from a local perspective.
IARA supports organizations from the states in the Amazon working with climate and environmental agendas, and that are mostly made up of women, black and indigenous people and/or residents of the periphery.
For each edition of the program, we select proposals which are aligned with the program’s thematic guidelines so the organizations can participate in a journey with workshops, mentoring, practical activities and a face-to-face phase. Since 2021, we have already supported the creation of 17 campaigns on misinformation, urban infrastructure and the protection of traditional communities, among others.
The acceleration journey was designed based on 3 pillars: financial support, institutional development and campaign development.
In each edition, the process took place in the following steps:
Application: In each edition, we openly invite organizations in the chosen states. We then mobilize organizations aligned with the program to apply with their proposals, using social networks, press coverage and local articulators.
Selection: Once applications close, we proceed to analyze them in a 3-staged process:
- Semi-finalists are chosen by Purpose;
- The finalists are chosen by a Committee of External Evaluators;
- Winners are selected by Purpose based on interviews.
Acceleration: The Accelerator stage lasts 4-6 months, with workshops on campaigns and institutions, mentoring, online consulting and a face-to-face meeting. Campaign development begins with a research phase and continues with the preparation of launch comms. Meanwhile, institutionally, IARA’s content focuses on strategic planning, financial management and the formalization processes.
Closure: After campaigns are launched and finalized, the participating organizations focus on preparing reports, and attend a celebration meeting, to which both partners and funders are also invited. They are introduced to the campaigns, and the organizations can create connections with partners and funders.
To understand the impact the program had on participants, we used a mixed methods longitudinal evaluation approach consisting of baseline surveys.
Participating organizations were asked at the program kickoff to complete a self-assessment of their own organizational capabilities, campaign expertise and the quality of their networks. Upon completion of the program, we compared the final survey responses, in search for significant growth in skill areas. From here, we were able to identify 4 main impacts of the acceleration program:
Organizational development capacity
From the baseline to the final surveys completed by the organizations, we saw significant growth in key areas of organizational capabilities, including annual budgeting, goal setting, and clearer leadership structures.
Upon completion of the program, 8 organizations had a strategic plan for 2023 built, compared to just 2 organizations at the start.
Campaign awareness growth
From the baseline to the filled final surveys, we have seen significant growth in essential knowledge on campaigns, and on how organizations should plan their creative tactics and manage their campaigns.
The participating organizations were able to put this knowledge to test through campaigns implemented during the program. From inception to completion, the group averaged a 6x growth in their campaigns reach.
When organizations started the IARA program, they knew, on average, only 3 other organizations in the group. Upon completion of the program, most organizations plan to maintain contact with all other participating organizations as part of their new expanded network. They recognize that their network has grown, and have expressed the need to continue expanding their networks.
Impact on mentors
We spoke with the mentors through focus groups, in order to understand their experience, as well as to validate the responses of organizations participating in the IARA program.
Mentors spoke about the value of their personal experience as professionals, as well as to the organizations they mentored. The mentors themselves highlighted the impact of feeling valued and included as Amazon professionals in the process. They also highlighted the ability to develop and improve their own professional skills, including interpersonal communication, time management and adaptability. By developing their skills as professionals, the mentors’ own organizations also benefited.
“The… organizations did not finish [the program] the same way they started it… IARA offers something that goes beyond campaigns: organizational development. Even not having closed a campaign the way they wanted, they developed a lot institutionally” – IARA mentor
“We have a strong network of partners that help us with professional support, training and even in [the] legal [area]. We now intend to improve our engagement with other collectives, mainly [those composed of] youth and women” – representative of one of the participating organizations
for Equity & Evidence