Acento, Local Action: Honoring the MacArthur Foundation’s Legacy in Mexico
December 8, 2020 | Perspectives | Our Work in Mexico

Sylvia Aguilera García of Acento, Local Action writes about how this new funding initiative is honoring the MacArthur Foundation’s social justice and human rights legacy in Mexico.


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After months of study, analysis, and consultation, Acento, Local Action made its public debut in August 2020. This new funding initiative is committed to the social justice and human rights movements in Mexico that work at the local level. At Acento, Local Action, we practice a philanthropy focused on trust and creating connections in the midst of complex social, political, and economic contexts that are made even more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our initial call for proposals focuses on organizations, community groups, and networks across the country that face greater obstacles to accessing resources, whether due to their lack of legal nonprofit status, insufficient organizational capacity, or because they rely on volunteer work. Regardless of such difficulties, these organizations make an important contribution to social justice and human rights agendas on the local level.



 A school shelter for Indigenous children in Guerrero.


With our call for proposals, we seek to establish the kind of organizations we hope to collaborate with and to share information about what working with a foundation like Acento, with its focus and philosophy, will entail. The call also seeks to generate a map of local civil society actors and their principal interests and needs, so Acento can help connect organizations to financial resources, technical assistance, and peer learning.  

The response has been astounding: we received 388 applications from 30 different states. The applications take on a diverse set of issues, including searches for disappeared people, land and land rights, and violence against women. All of these issues that applicants target are relevant and important. We believe that the large response stems from the vibrancy of work on the local level, with a clear need to access diverse resources. It also may reflect the difficulties local initiatives are experiencing in the midst of the pandemic in Mexico.

Our Advisory Council, made up of men and women with diverse experiences, visions, and geographic origins—all committed to social justice and human rights causes— recently chose the first group of organizations that will receive Acento funds. It includes seventeen organizations from twelve states working on a variety of issues. Together, these organizations represents Acento’s strategy of supporting groups and organizations involved in high impact social change at the local level that have faced challenges in accessing funds.

Our immediate challenge is to take the example of the invaluable financial, strategic, and humanitarian support that the MacArthur Foundation has offered in our country over the past three decades and to honor that legacy with new, diverse strategies. We hope to contribute to a new way of doing philanthropy, one that commits to reducing the power imbalance between foundations and organizations, and to become an important piece of the struggle for social justice and human rights in Mexico that contributes to long-term change.

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