A look back at 2021…
PSYDEH increased individual and collective agency and solidarity by doubling down on multi-year field programming as well as resource diversification efforts.
COVID-19 & Climate change = Fieldwork Opportunities for Empowering Agency & Solidarity
The complicated, rural landscape in which we work grew more so in 2021. COVID-19 and climate change cut access to electricity and information and communications technology (ICT) as well as local mobility, all of which impacted PSYDEH’s work and economic life. Mexico saw the greatest increase in poverty across the Americas, with 65% of the population reporting less income.
PSYDEH took any opportunity that these circumstances gave to us and worked in every way possible to continue our evolution as a paradigm changer in the field of community-led development. As we move into 2022, let’s look back at some of the highlights from this tough, productive year using six better practices for civil society to increase agency and solidarity as our guide. Source: Forthcoming research by Oxfam with support from London School of Economics AFSEE’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.
(1) Tackling misinformation and (2) offering emotional support
PSYDEH tactically used outcomes from multi-year programming ending in 2020 as the basis for a second multi-year program through 2024. Phase one began in March 2021 with goals like tackling misinformation and offering emotional support.
Information, and access to it, are vital to any sustained effort to navigate tough challenges like COVID-19. Starting early in the pandemic, PSYDEH translated and supplied science-backed information through our information series for rural communities. In 2021, we took the core of this learning and augmented it with new data when giving and inviting feedback from women and their communities on local needs.
Some of what we learned reinforced what we already knew; many Indigenous women feel isolated and abandoned, including by PSYDEH. This was painful to learn, and not surprising. Historically, funding constraints meant we offered only sporadic in-person consultation, and never individual personal coaching or psychological/legal consultations. This reality was compounded tenfold in 2020 when government lockdowns prohibited us from visiting women allies for much of the year.
Core mechanisms of 2021-2024 programming, therefore, include PSYDEH’s first-ever fieldwork hub we call Casa Siempre Viva (named after our regional collective ally), as well as a nine-person, majority-Indigenous women-led field corps. The Hub and field corps are long-missing pieces to our people-centric work. They decrease transportation costs (money and time) and are the tools through which we offer dignified, personal human contact and professional support, visibly demonstrating how seriously we take women’s demand for greater attention to their wellbeing.
(3) Defending rights when, and through, (4) capacity building and (5) mutual-aid oriented direct services
All PSYDEH efforts are human rights-oriented, e.g., holding the state accountable, filling gaps in state services, or normative advocacy, e.g., combat gender-based violence.
In 2021, we continue this tradition while evolving significantly the implementation of our rights-oriented scalable model explained in this Ted-Ed-inspired animation or this infographic. PSYDEH’s course correction was necessary because of the ongoing crises and how the Mexican government channels all funding to “el pueblo”, especially local economic projects, in lieu of supporting civil society organizations (CSOs).
For example, we heeded local demands for “fish”, breaking from our tradition of only offering how-to-fish capacity-building workshops. 2021-2022 Cuando Amanece programming doubled down on our bet that women, when offered the right direct services, can and will improve their own living conditions in the short term, sowing the seeds for longer-term work. By year’s end, this programming and that which we celebrate below is prima facie evidence of how PSYDEH moved FROM rights-based, capacity-building support of women building their own CSOs TO the same but with a focus on women incubating their own small enterprises like poultry farming for egg production.
Other 2021 programming reflects this bet too. First, we embarked on our most professional social enterprise yet, what we call Bordamos Juntos. Built on 2020 success, this initiative spotlighted over fifty Indigenous women artisans from Hidalgo and their relationship to craft, while connecting them directly to an online e-commerce site hosted by our citizen group ally Ayuda Mutua CDMX, as well as PSYDEH’s Etsy store. Here, artisan allies receive a dignified wage for each piece sold and 100% of net income is reinvested into 2022 economic solidarity work.
Second, “the fish” delivered through Cuando Amanece and Bordamos Juntos go to two different groups–a network of women-led organizations we’ve supported since 2014-2015 and a new one hailing from 20 more communities. These women are, by design, the ideal candidates for 2022-2024 work organizing what we call the Sierra Madre Network, women-led cooperatives that promote individual and collective agency, foster leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and activate more equal participation for women in their communities.
Lastly, PSYDEH engaged in two different normative advocacy activities. We linked political rights work with advocacy efforts by promoting women’s participation in Mexican electoral politics via our newest short film “Poderosa“. And we linked economic rights work with advocacy when consulting USA-based companies to generatively avoid the cultural appropriation of traditional Indigenous designs, including by helping artisans try to negotiate win-win alliances with brands.
(6) Support digital access
2021 crises reinforced what we have long known, and on which we have counseled global and national actors for some time: if we’re serious about increasing agency and solidarity among marginalized people, we need to be serious about helping them, and their civil society partners, to increase access to and adoption and use of ICT.
Thanks to our multi-layered partnership with Zoom, we inked a three-to-five-year partnership with USA-based Team4Tech to make a macro-and micro-level impact in this area through programming we call Tech Para Todos (Tech For All). at the global and national levels, we will innovate an ICT model for rural, sustainable development in the Global South. At the local level, we will boost programming and community coordination by linking a network of five rural digital work hubs with the outside world and providing culturally appropriate technology tools and training for all.
COVID-19 & Climate change = Staying the course towards resource stream diversification
With the year’s multiple crises and the Mexican government cuts of all funding, many Mexican nonprofits closed their doors. We knew that if we are to achieve ambitious programming goals, PSYDEH had to keep working on our resource stream diversification strategy, with a heavy focus on multi-year support. This strategy now has ten different streams, resulting in significant success, especially with corporate and global network investments of money and in-kind and professional services.
Growing our portfolio of global partnerships
Corporate partnerships are an essential source of support. In 2021, we were selected for funding from Kroll advisory firm, Zoom company, and the giving arm of Germany-based Lemonaid & ChariTea. We received needed professional services investments from Zoom and multi-national companies like HSBC Bank and Johnson & Johnson. We produced our first fee-for-service socially conscious project with USA-based PopSockets. We also worked hard to maximize the benefits from in-kind donations of licenses and ad buys from Zoom and Google respectively.
Foreign governments and organizations
In the area of foreign government support, a long-time resource stream diversification goal, PSYDEH finally made a breakthrough when convincing the government of Ireland to invest in 2022 Sierra Madre Network programming.
Building on our years-long partnership with USA-based crowdfunding platform GlobalGiving (GG), we followed up an especially strong year of fundraising in 2020 with our helping GG to launch their Ethos initiative and reorient their Annual Girl Fund to be more accessible to smaller organizations in the Global South in 2021. We also secured multiple partnerships in Germany with the aim to increase resource raising in this part of the world, including with the Maecenata foundation and the crowdfunding platform Betterplace offering a tax deduction to all Germans donating to PSYDEH.
Elsewhere, we joined new peer networks, including Red Impacto LATAM, USA-based Chacruna Institute’s Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative of the Americas, and UK-based Alliance of NGOs and CSOs for South-South Cooperation (ANCSSC). And we continued to benefit from existing partnerships like that which we have with the India-based social enterprise Chezuba through whom we were chosen as the only nonprofit in the Americas for the global multi-national company Tata Group’s pro engage employee volunteering program.
Growing our team, story, and impact
In 2021, PSYDEH’s majority-women staff hailed from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Guatemala, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, the UK (Scotland), and the USA. Field team members cover program design and implementation, direct services, capacity building, and professional and personal development. For example, women like Nancy de Lucio Vargas, Citlali Aparacio Estrada, Jazmín Manrique Viguerez and Salma Sinaí Soto Montes lead the implementation of Cuando Amanece and Sierra Madre Network programming in 2021-2022.
PSYDEH’s backstop support office team leads resource raising, strategic partnerships and planning, professional volunteer recruitment via our new Global Collaborators Program, professional development, strategic partnership building, marketing, digital communications and optimization, and sustainability. For example, USA Uana Coccoloni, a marketing branding executive, donated her services to help us clarify our five value propositions. She then partnered PSYDEH with Brazilian graphic designer Patricia Priester on our beautiful new logo. These professionals from rural and urban Mexico and across the world, their extraordinary commitment, with all volunteering some or 100% of their time and most working virtually, make possible what we highlight in this article.