MacArthur President John Palfrey discusses the impact and legacy of our work in Mexico and expresses gratitude to our Mexico City-based colleagues, grantees, and partners as we close our office in Mexico.


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At the end of 2020, MacArthur’s grantmaking in Mexico will conclude, and we will close our Mexico City office, the hub of our work in Mexico for three decades.

We have been proud to support Mexican civil society organizations as its leaders worked tirelessly to address difficult but important topics, including reproductive and sexual rights, human rights, and migration-related issues. Over the last 35 years, MacArthur grantees have helped make emerging issues more visible, developed strong policy proposals, and created meaningful change for social justice.

Our work in Mexico began with a program to find and support courageous and innovative leaders through the Fund for Leadership Development, which continued through 2001. Early work also focused on population and reproductive health: our initial investments helped to catalyze what has become a powerful feminist movement in Mexico that has expanded access to reproductive and sexual health rights, legalized abortion in two states, strengthened sexuality education, and started to bring midwifery back into health services.

"We have been proud to support Mexican civil society organizations as its leaders worked tirelessly to address difficult but important topics...."

We supported human rights efforts, from broad civil society participation in the drafting of Mexico’s first National Human Rights Plan in 2001 to documentation, research, and litigation of human rights cases in national and international courts, which set legal precedence and enabled victims to access justice. We addressed migration issues, including protecting migrants and refugees’ rights, helping to meet the immediate needs of migrants in Mexico, and fortifying transnational justice systems for migrants.

About five years ago, MacArthur began to consolidate our grantmaking into a smaller number of Big Bets. The intention is to invest in transformative change in areas of profound concern. It forced a number of hard decisions, including ending a dozen programs, three of which were core to our Mexico grantmaking.

As we prepared to end programs and close the office, we were determined to do so responsibly. We launched a capstone initiative in reproductive health, provided final grants, and launched a social justice legacy fund. To celebrate the progress civil society organizations created in Mexico over the last 35 years, we gave voice to our partners’ work with seven Perspectives pieces written by grantees.

The decision to end our grantmaking in Mexico does not dilute the impact and tremendous work our partners pursued. Because MacArthur grantees are close to the people they serve and represent, they have enabled deeper and more diverse citizen participation in public policy related to human rights, reproductive healthcare, and migration issues, and raised their voices when public programs and policies did more harm than good. 

Of course, the closure of our Mexico office does not mean the work of our grantees ends. We are proud to have supported and helped envision the creation of Acento, Acción Local, the Foundation's legacy in the field of human rights and social justice in Mexico. With our five-year, $10 million commitment, Acento is poised to create more equitable access to philanthropic resources for grassroots organizations operating with great strategic acumen, but little money.

"We remain deeply grateful to our Mexico City-based staff and to our many partners there...."

Acento’s first group of partners—17 grassroots groups in 12 states—will receive financial and technical support in January 2021. They are working to protect the environment, to prevent violence against women, to find forcibly disappeared persons, to strengthen the rights of Afro-Mexican women, and to engage young people in civic participation, among other issues. With Acento’s strategic support, the sum of these efforts will become greater than the parts. Coupled with the ongoing work of long-time Foundation grantees, Acento and its partners’ work helps make the social justice sector in Mexico more robust. 

We look forward to seeing the positive change our long-term grantees in Mexico, Acento, and its new partners create in the years ahead.

We remain deeply grateful to our Mexico City-based staff and to our many partners there for the foundations they laid and progress they made over the last three decades. They have touched countless lives in Mexico, and we are proud of the work they have done with such passion and care. They will always remain part of the MacArthur community.