In January 2016, through generous support from the Wallace Global Fund along with Rainforest Action Network, Swift Foundation and The Christensen Fund, Land is Life completed the first ever convening of our global staff and grassroots Indigenous partners. This was an intense three-day working session in Otavalo, Ecuador designed to reflect on Land is Life's mission and milestones, discuss programmatic priorities and challenges and set a strategic course that will guide and inspire its progress towards Indigenous approaches to protecting rights, the environment, biodiversity and traditional knowledge and cultures.
The timing for this meeting was long overdue: for the past 25 years, Land is Life has built a broad, trusted network of Indigenous leaders, organizations, and communities that is defined by solidarity, transparency and a shared vision of the future. Despite this powerful and unique achievement, and the hundreds of grassroots causes that we have supported, the overall health and sustainability of the organization has at times been threatened. Since our leadership transition in late 2013, we have worked to assemble a small support team in New York to build institutional systems, financial controls and programming protocols required for a healthy and sustainable organization. Four part-time Regional Coordinators also joined the team to facilitate a new approach to Indigenous-led grassroots support that responds nimbly to the ever changing needs and opportunities of Indigenous communities. This growth was essential to not only maintain our broad, trusted network, but also to grow and utilize its full potential.
The Summit in Otavalo was a timely and invaluable opportunity to review these recent organizational changes, strengthen and formalize roles of team members and grassroots partners and generate momentum to move Land is Life towards a sustainable and effective future. Possibly the most important theme that arose in Otavalo is that Land is Life is much more than a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization; it is a global movement whose mission and mandate go well beyond those of traditional charitable organizations. The lessons learned and strategy decisions represented the collective vision of Land is Life’s global team and partners and will be used as a key guide for organization in the coming months and years.
For more photos, please visit the portfolio of Scott Fitzmorris, our funding partner from Wallace Global Fund who helped support the summit.