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Some of our current initiatives are:

Proposals are by invitation only. We do not accept unsolicited requests for support.


Thank you for your interest in the Mariposa Foundation. We welcome your questions about the Foundation, but accept proposals by invitation only. We do not accept unsolicited requests for support.

The Mariposa Foundation

Phone: (212) 660 5536



Funding Proposal for the Mariposa Foundation

Oxfam GB’s Research, Development and Innovation Fund

For Water, Sanitation and Public Health Promotion

February 2009

To create a flexible Fund to support research, development and innovation for sustainable water and sanitation technology and methodology and, to invest in projects on the ground to showcase developments and share best practice within Oxfam programmes and beyond. The Fund will ultimately help shape and inform future water, sanitation and public health technology, helping to save millions of lives and livelihoods globally.


Water, sanitation and public health – the facts

Currently one billion people live without safe drinking water and 2.6 billion people have no basic sanitation. In the next 24 hours, diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation will claim the lives of 4,000 children. Diarrhoea alone kills 1.8 million children under five every year, but most cases can be prevented or treated. When combined, appropriate access to water, sanitation and hygiene promotion can reduce the number of deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases by 65 percent. And, the simple act of washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by over 40 percent.

But to try and achieve some of these simple acts can become a day’s work; children are prevented from attending school because they often have to walk great distances to collect water for their families. In fact, the UN estimates that children are 12 percent more likely to attend school if water is available within 15 minutes rather than one hour's walk. And, 11 percent more girls would attend school when sanitation facilities are available. So making water more available and safe would have an impact not just on the health of individuals, but also on their education and future prospects.

Even if access and distance weren’t problematic, this still leaves the issue of quantity. The minimum estimated amount of safe water every individual needs to ensure their basic needs is 20 litres per day. In contrast, the average person in the developing world uses ten litres of water every day for their drinking, washing and cooking. This is the same amount used in the average flush of a toilet. To put the scarcity of water into further context, a staggering 40 billion working hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa alone.

These facts are killer facts. A lack of water, sanitation and public health kills. Fact. Without clean water, appropriate sanitation and improvements in public health, any investments made in developing countries are impeded.

Oxfam GB’s proposal to the Mariposa Foundation, outlined overleaf, is in direct response to the problems associated with a lack of water, sanitation and public health, and for the need to formalise and develop innovative solutions to specific problems, which can be adapted and replicated by Oxfam (and the wider water and sanitation community) on a significant scale. The killer facts above are not an exhaustive list, merely a representation of the kind of challenges public health engineers face every day when working alongside local communities in developing countries.

The wider development community and the United Nations

If public health engineers are closest to the problems, and therefore possible technical solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water and sanitation issues on the ground, then where can larger scale change happen? Most would argue for a robust framework of international support from individual governments along side any outside intervention to ensure that local communities, and community-based organisations are getting the support they need in the most appropriate way. In 2000 important steps were taken by the international community to promote and prioritize the needs of the poorest when 129 countries made a series of pledges – or Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as they are commonly referred to. The pledge for water was to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015.

Progress towards meeting the MDGs for water and sanitation has been painfully slow over the last decade. Oxfam and the wider development community backs a recent United Nations review, which identified water and sanitation and public health promotion (WATSAN/PHP) as a sector where there are still large gaps in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. The timing is therefore right to commit to, and invest in innovation, research and development, with sector wide agreement that more can and must be done in order to meet the MDGs which relate to water and sanitation.

In summary, the cause of failure of many water and sanitation initiatives is still the lack of sustainability due to a variety of factors such as inappropriate technologies, lack of community or local authority/Government support and lack of adaptive methodologies that are resilient enough to withstand the effects of climate change, conflict or economic downturn.

In an Oxfam context, there has been much progress over the years in leading new ideas and technical development. However, a lack of investment has prevented Oxfam from being able to proactively plan, and trial new ways of working in relation to specific themes or problems.

The Research, Development and Innovation Fund will enable Oxfam to encourage and nurture existing thinking from some of the world’s leading public health engineers and promote talent to directly respond to specific issues, outlined above, in a strategic way. This will ensure that investments made are sustainable, adaptable and replicable.

2. Oxfam GB – the organisation

Currently we are working in over 70 countries around the world, on development, emergency and campaigning issues. Oxfam is one of the world’s largest agencies providing humanitarian water, sanitation and public health promotion and we have been working in this area for the last 50 years.

In response to demands from the International Humanitarian Community, Oxfam aims to increase its capacity to do more public health work (particularly on humanitarian issues). In order to do this, Oxfam needs to make structural changes in its programming and skills base. It is accepted that just making a commitment to do more would not be adequate. The proposal presented to the Mariposa Foundation is a key part of Oxfam’s ambition to do more, have greater impact, and share lessons learnt – specifically in the sphere of research, development and innovation.

We are recognised globally as one of the leading agencies in the Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) sector, having set the standard for many now commonly used approaches and technologies. We are currently the chair of the Interagency Emergency WATSAN Group and a major supporting NGO to the WASH Cluster process (the United Nation’s work to improve WATSAN during emergency responses).

How we respond

In any emergency, lives are put at risk by inadequate water supplies and poor sanitation. Oxfam’s water engineers are known internationally for the speed and efficiency with which they can help provide large-scale water supplies, and essential sanitation facilities, even in the most difficult circumstances.

In chronic emergencies such as Darfur, which unfold over a longer period of time, there is more scope to develop solutions that are more cost-effective and appropriate to local conditions.

The bedrock of any emergency response therefore has to be appropriate water and sanitation, to ensure that the number of deaths does not continue to rise after the initial emergency has happened. Oxfam’s public health teams also work alongside our water engineers to ensure water and sanitation facilities are used properly, and so prevent the spread of disease.

In development terms, any investments made in education, health care, livelihoods, or governance are rendered inadequate without proper access to water, sanitation and public health.

Oxfam’s track record in research, development and innovation

Oxfam has an excellent history of working to replicate and adapt new technologies and innovations. Previous work which addressed gaps in the sector include the Oxfam Delagua water testing kit (checking water is safe for human use), Oxfam water tanks (to store large amounts safely), Oxfam pump kits (to get water from tanks to tap stands), the Oxfam Bucket (to store water safely), the Oxfam latrine slab (to improve hygiene and maintain dignity) and Oxfam hygiene promotion approaches. Each one of these initiatives has influenced the entire water, sanitation and public health sector.

The Oxfam Bucket

Until 1997, Oxfam used jerry cans to supply people with clean, safe water during an emergency. They were bulky, expensive to transport, and once the lid was lost, the water could become contaminated with dirt and germs.

Gathering feedback from health promoters, water engineers, and people living in refugee camps, Oxfam's Public Health Team developed the Oxfam bucket, with attention to the tiniest, but often most crucial, details.

For example, the moulding process leaves a small pimple on the bottom of normal buckets. This pimple is removed from the Oxfam bucket - an essential, but easily overlooked consideration for use in countries where loads are usually carried on the head.

It is now used around the world to help people to keep water clean in emergency situations.

Qualities it exemplifies about Oxfam

Innovation – award winning design, attention to tiniest detail (pimple on base removed for comfort)

Practicality – easy to carry, nothing can be dipped into the bucket so water remains uncontaminated, and its stackable design means it’s cheaper to transport than jerry cans.

Sustainability - lasts longer than other buckets – moulded from plastic that doesn’t deteriorate in sunlight

Cost Effective – all for £2.75

High impact – reduces incidences of water borne disease.

Because of our history, expertise, staff, and wider reputation, we must continue to innovate. Finding new or better ways to deliver water and sanitation and public health promotion at a low cost, in widely replicable ways. In order to better illustrate possible outcomes of a Research, Development and Innovation Fund, below is a current example of innovation, which could have a huge impact throughout Bangladesh, and beyond.

The Chulli Water Purifier

Much of Bangladesh floods every year during the monsoon season and is regularly battered by devastating tropical cyclones. The most devastating cyclones and floods in the world occur here. In addition, the country has approximately 600 kilometres of coastline, which leaves huge tracts of land open to the destructive effects of cyclones and storm surges. When disaster strikes, trying to keep water clean is huge problem, and Oxfam has been working on a system to use in individual households that will purify water, in a reliable, and cost effective way.

The household filter is called a Chulli Water Purifier. The filter relies on passing water through a modified household stove to heat it and inactivate organisms that cause diarrhoeal disease. Although the Chulli Water Purifier is proven to reduce the indicator organism E. coli in ideal use situations, a field evaluation of the initial Chulli Water Purifier design found that poor durability, inconvenience, high cost and post-treatment contamination substantially limited the usefulness of the Purifier. The survey of 101 of the 114 families that initially received a Chulli Water Purifier found that only 21 per cent of households were regular users, and only four households were using the Purifier correctly at the time of the follow-up visit. The main reasons for discontinuation of use were: mechanical problems or breakage (49 per cent), complexity/ inconvenience (35 per cent), and inability to pay (10 per cent).

In response to the evaluation, the Chulli Water Purifier was modified to improve the design and prevent mechanical problems by: strengthening the tube connections, increasing the length of the coil in the stove, preventing shortcutting in the system, installing a piece of fabric in the sand filter to act as a diffusing plate, placing muslin in the sand filter to prevent bursting, and modifying the tap stand (where water comes out) so a culturally appropriate storage container can be placed directly under the tap.

The next phase of the research and development will be to install twenty thousand of these improved Chulli Water Purifiers in two regions of Bangladesh affected by flooding to assess the possibility of replicating the filter across Bangladesh during emergency responses and beyond. All at a cost of $68,723.

3. The Proposal

We very much want to continue Oxfam’s groundbreaking work, by specifically investing in a new Fund over the next five years to further innovate water, sanitation and public health work using our existing knowledge and standing in the sector, to leverage additional support and resources. Longer term, our ambition would be to fold research and development into Oxfam’s core functions within water, sanitation and public health promotion.

Overarching Aims

Specifically, the aim of a Research, Development and Innovation Fund is twofold. Firstly to proactively assess the gaps in Oxfam and other agencies water and sanitation programmes and to develop strategies to address these. Secondly, to have the resources and the flexibility to enable Oxfam to quickly identify and evaluate good local solutions to problems and to invest in them to bring them quickly to wider communities, across many countries.

By creating a Research, Development and Innovation Fund we could:

Enhance Oxfam’s capacity to carry out research and development into water, sanitation and hygiene promotion technologies and methodologies that increase the appropriateness and effectiveness of our emergency responses.

Seed fund not less than 20 field projects, which aim to demonstrate sustainable improvements in water, sanitation and public health facilities.

Investments made into a Research, Development and Innovation Fund would ultimately benefit the wider field of experts and agencies working to provide water, sanitation and public health for millions of vulnerable people globally.

Mechanics of the Research and Development Fund

The Fund, once established, would operate for a period of five years, issuing annual calls for proposals to Oxfam public health engineers globally. The call for proposals will be based on a specific, defined set of criteria (in line with the overall ambition of the Fund to innovate and replicate water and sanitation and public health across Oxfam programmes and the wider NGO sector).

Individual Oxfam public health engineers would be invited to submit concept notes (on a pre-defined format). The call for proposals would be accompanied by a short explanation of the Fund itself, the minimum and maximum funding available, the help/support available from the Public Health Team in Oxfam Headquarters if desired, together with a timeframe.

There will also be a specific set of themes, of which, the proposal must address at least one area to ensure that the Fund is targeting innovation and technical development strategically and in line with the sectors most pressing issues. Applicants can apply for development innovation, emergency response or a combination of both.

Specific areas of interest and importance for current research and design innovations include:

Household water supplies (storage, treatment and use)

Biogas technology (alternative fuels)

Eco pumps (and other innovative ways to pump water)

Latrines (design and innovation)

Desalination (water is desalinated in order to be converted to fresh water suitable for human consumption or irrigation.

Once the closing deadline has passed, each proposal will be reviewed by a panel of experts from within Oxfam. From the overall submissions, between four and six projects per year will be selected for funding. The unsuccessful applicants will work with the Public Health team to see if their propositions can be strengthened and submitted the following year if appropriate. The successful teams will be notified within two weeks of the Fund selection meeting and projects will begin within one month of funding notification. A condition of the funding will be monitoring and documentation at two months, four months and a final report at six months. Each engineer can access the Public Health Team at any time for advice, support and guidance, and if necessary, a member of the Public Health team can travel to project sites.

Fund Management

The Fund, and therefore any grant secured, will be managed and chaired by Andy Bastable, Senior Advisor Public Health Engineering Coordinator. The board will comprise a panel of in-house experts, drawing on a wide range of technical, field and engineering expertise:

Rich Bauer, Public Health Engineering Advisor
John Howard, Emergencies Technical Advisor
Daudi Bikaba, Public Health Engineering Advisor
Nega Bezezew, Technical Advisor, Horn, East and Central Africa
Marion O’Reilly, Senior Health Advisor
Foyeke Tolania, Health Advisor

The Fund will support projects that:

Demonstrate new methodologies, approaches and technologies that more efficiently address specific problems.
Involve research into areas that represent gaps in the WATSAN knowledge or practice.
Involve innovations which can be replicated/adapted in country or in other countries.
Spread learning across the water, sanitation and public health sector.

Each proposal must demonstrate:

The problem and the research and development required to address the problem.
Time frame (normally not more than six months).
Management of the project – naming the individual responsible and that the country manager endorses the project.
Have baseline data plus a clear reporting schedule.
Clearly state the risks of not finishing on time or not achieving the desired goal and the consequences of each.
Assuming the project is successful a section on “next steps” to fund a scale up of the innovation.
A dissemination strategy both for in-country and externally.
Total costs for staff, monitoring, contingency if necessary, consultant experts, kit and, materials.
The Development of the Fund
Once the Fund is established, Oxfam hopes to create a body of evidence, which will:
Inform Oxfam programmes and replicate successes to scale in country and beyond.
Inform the wider WATSAN sector of successes and of course failures.
Mainstream research and development into core Oxfam programming by the end of a five-year period of intensive investment.
Generate wider interest among the donor community to leverage further investment and support from year three of the Fund’s inception.

Working in partnership

Innovation, research and development cannot happen in isolation. Therefore the majority of Oxfam’s research and development work is done in some form of collaboration with the Interagency WATSAN Group and various institutions such as, the University of Surrey, Cranfield University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and, the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta. This ensures that we avoid duplication of effort and share knowledge and learning appropriately. Below is a brief summary of key stakeholders, with more information available upon request.

Cranfield University - as a member of the advisory group to DfID (DEWPOINT) and as one of the two main academic institutions in the UK teaching and researching on rural water supply in development, has much experience and academic rigour to offer the Fund. It can also provide MSc research students to undertake small intensive studies looking into specific aspects of water supply marketing and sustainability, and of low cost technologies and has recently been doing this especially in Uganda and Malawi.
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) - is a leader in evaluating the epidemiological impact of water and sanitation initiatives and in social marketing for hygiene. As such it has expertise in the design of surveys and statistical analysis, which can identify key factors of effectiveness among the many variables in rural water supply and behavioural change.
Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta - is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Atlanta CDC speciliaises in water and public health development.
In addition, Oxfam would link to the Multiple Use Water Services (MUS) group, which is investigating the value of multiple use of water and the Household Water Treatment and Storage Group (HWTS) which has undertaken many studies on the impact of water treatment and is now looking more at the behavioural aspects which are limiting uptake. In this way duplication of efforts can be avoided.

Monitoring and evaluation

The central function of the Fund will be to share innovations and replicate successes. This will only be possible if appropriate monitoring and evaluation processes are in place. Each pilot project that receives funding will have to document and report their research and findings, following a specific format, and this will be collated and reviewed via the Fund manager.

All reports will be reviewed and assessed by the Fund manager, and depending on the outputs and impact, decisions will made whether to scale-up individual projects in-country and/or replicate in other countries where appropriate.

Oxfam will submit detailed annual reports on projects supported by the Fund to the Mariposa Foundation, covering key learning, impact, beneficiary case studies and possible areas for replicating successful technologies together with a detailed breakdown of expenditure. There will also be the opportunity for the Mariposa Foundation to make field visits to see first hand innovations made possible as a direct result of the Fund.

Internally, lessons and experiences will be shared via the Humanitarian Learning Forum (held annually for all the public health staff – approximately 40 field staff on permanent contracts within Oxfam plus five Public Health Regional Advisors and in-country Public Health Coordinators and all Humanitarian Department advisors). Learning will also be shared during bi-annual regional rapid response team training meetings and regional public health forums.

Externally, lessons and experiences will be shared via key publications; Waterlines; Journal of Health and Environment; Interagency Technical Group (which Oxfam chairs) and the UN WASH Cluster.


The Fund will support the most vulnerable people, in any country where development, research or innovation within water, sanitation or public health has the potential to help lift them out of poverty.

Due to the flexible nature of the Fund it is not possible to indicate the exact number of direct and indirect beneficiaries or the exact locations where projects will be funded. Rather an overview of likely beneficiaries can be presented in order to illustrate the wide reaching impact and focus of the Fund.

Per project, the Fund would anticipate that tens of thousands of people should benefit. If taken to scale in-country as a result of successful piloting, the figures then sharply rise to hundreds of thousands. If taken to scale across many countries, then figures would rise to millions.

Projects can be funded in any of the 70 countries where Oxfam has programmes. It is assumed that the bulk of the seed funding will be directed towards the poorest countries in Africa and South Asia as this is where the most pressing WATSAN needs are.

Over a period of five years, a maximum of 30 projects will be piloted – and not less than 20. It is also anticipated that many more women and children will directly benefit from individual projects and innovations as they usually carry the burden of water collection, storage etc…


Over the course of five years, the Research, Development and Innovation Fund will have:
Assessed gaps in Oxfam and other agencies water and sanitation programmes;
Developed strategies to address these gaps;
Identified and evaluation not less than 20 good local solutions to problems;
Bought to scale all successful pilot projects;
And, enabled a step change in the water and sanitation community by sharing lessons and documenting successes.

Grant Details

Section Four contains a breakdown of the Fund budget, detailing Mariposa’s contribution and Oxfam’s contribution.

The budget

Financial Breakdown:

Financial Narrative:

(1.1) No project can exceed $140,000. Each project proposal will cover all costs associated with delivery, including; contingency in cases of hyperinflation; monitoring and evaluation; consultants; kit; materials; and all associated staff time.
(3.1) Most relevant publications currently are; Waterlines – Journal of Health and Environment – Interagency Technical group (which Oxfam chairs) and the UN WASH cluster.
(4.3) Oxfam GB hopes to attract additional funding from other private donors to scale-up the number of pilot projects that can be funded. NB* Overall the budget presented is scaleable, and could absorb additional funding to get more projects off the ground, and disseminate learning more widely.

UN World Water Development Report, UN Environmental Programme

Referred to hereafter as Oxfam
The support may involve in-country visits to help develop proposals.

These areas came out of recent Oxfam Humanitarian Learning Forum to share learning and developments throughout the sector. UK Department for International Development

Oxfam is a registered charity in England and Wales (no 202918) and Scotland (SCO 039042). Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans

Sojourner Truth Community Center

In August 2008, the Mariposa Foundation generously granted $50,000 to Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO).  The Mariposa Foundation indicated that the grant was for general operating support and was to be used however Catholic Charities saw fit.  Given the great need at the Sojourner Truth Community Center (STCC) in Treme, Catholic Charities directed these monies towards programmatic and operating support for the center.

Slated to open in Winter 2008, the Community Housing Supportive Services program of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans successfully reopened Sojourner Truth Community Center as of January 2009. Our slight delay was due to the condition of the building and the need for some significant repairs. Those repairs needed in order to open were done and we continue to work towards the completion of all major repairs for a fully functional community center. Although faced with these challenges, we have had many successes since the opening of Sojourner Truth.

At STCC, we offer both Family Stabilization services – basic needs information and referral/case management services, as well as Family Strengthening services. Family Strengthening services are focused on employment, education, wealth & asset development, youth development and health & wellness. We are actively implementing quality programs for each of these focus areas. Since the January opening, we have had over 1,500 phone and walk-in inquiries for services and programs at STCC.

Family Stabilization – From January 2009 - July 2009, we have served 241 former Lafitte Housing families and 27 families from the Treme and Tulane/Gravier communities - a total of 268 families. Since January 2009, we have an active enrollment of 94 families. We are aggressive with our outreach efforts and continue to enroll new families every week.

Family Strengthening

Employment – We continue to improve and focus on Employment services at the center through resume assistance, employment and training referrals, and general employment advising. We’ve had three successful job placements and one successful training placement. We have a monthly Job Seekers’ Roundtable, where those actively seeking employment gather to learn and share valuable information. We also have a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor working with our disabled clients who can and need to find jobs, and our Section 3 coordinator is working with interested and able former Lafitte residents to obtain employment opportunities associated with the redevelopment of the Lafitte Housing complex. Our Community Resource Center has two computers with internet, a copy machine, fax machine and printer that are available to our community free of charge. Use of our Community Resource Center is rapidly increasing and we hope to acquire more computers for the center in the near future. Youth Development – In May, we hosted the Phoenix of New Orleans (PNOLA) Kids’ Fair, a fun and successful event with more than 60 neighborhood children attending. With help from community partners, we successfully planned and implemented a full month of FREE summer camp for 25 of our communities’ middle school youth in July. This camp highlighted many activities such as social skills groups, etiquette classes, literacy-based play, and much more. We also hosted the Juvenile Justice Project’s “Black Love” in July, serving an additional 30 youth ages 8-16. Other summer activities included: a “Youth of the Now” Roundtable discussion; two spoken word workshops in June with WordPlay New Orleans; and a ‘Take Back the Mic’ poetry slam event. Our fall is looking busy as well. Starting in October, we will be a monthly host of the National Congress of Black Women Young Ambassadors program. We are also planning our Saturday Youth Club and afterschool programs. Most recently, we hosted the Agenda for Children/LACHIP Back to School enrollment event. Health & Wellness – Through a partnership with Tulane Community Health Center at Covenant House, we offer monthly health workshops featuring topics such as “Love Your Heart”, a program on healthy hearts including free yoga; “Healthy Women, Healthy Mothers”, focusing on women’s cancer prevention; a Depression seminar; and a Diabetes Education workshop and BBQ. On the topic of Health & Wealth, we co-sponsored the film event, “Unnatural Causes” in partnership with Tulane Community Health Center at Covenant House. To respond to community needs through program development, we have a Tulane School of Public Health intern working on a Community Health Assessment for the neighborhoods we serve. Starting in August, Behavioral Health, including individual counseling and parenting classes, will be offered by licensed Catholic Charities counselors. For seniors, our Senior Day Club is meeting several times a month at the center for fellowship, food, health discussions and BINGO.

Wealth & Asset Development – Throughout the tax season, Catholic Charities’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program completed 46 Federal Returns at Sojourner Truth, with 18 receiving Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). Through a partnership with Goodwork Network, a complete Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ( TANF) Microenterprise Training series was held for seven weeks at Sojourner Truth; 37 enrolled for small business training. We kicked off our MoneyWi$e Financial Literacy class series through a collaboration with Gert Town Community Center, and also have a Homeownership Counselor working with clients onsite for interested and qualified residents. We hold had bi-monthly ‘Energy Wise’ workshops presented by Entergy to teach people how to lower their energy costs. We will soon begin onsite Credit Counseling as we work to assist former Lafitte residents to prepare for re-occupancy in the new development.

In the past nine months, Sojourner Truth has become a welcoming hub of activity for the Treme neighborhood. We have an open door for all residents of the area, as well as other non-profits and community groups. Collaboration is the key to redeveloping a historic and unique community. We are thankful for the support of the Mariposa Foundation. Your gift has allowed us to offer services desperately needed by the community. We welcome a site visit from you and hope to show you many of the exciting things happening at our center.

Grant Making Lessons Learned

Case Study

Purpose of this Report

The purpose of this report is to summarize some of the lessons we’ve learned through our recent grantmaking. Specifically, it focuses on our experience making two key grants in our Humanitarian program. Both were grants to leading organizations engaged in challenging and innovative work – work that involves countries hard hit by conflict, natural and man-made disasters, and endemic poverty. These grants, each for three years, are the Foundation’s largest to date. Both grants represent the Foundation’s first foray into special initiative funding, as opposed to general operating support, which has been -- and continues to be -- the mainstay of our grantmaking. And in both instances, the Foundation sought to fund innovative, under-resourced issues, and took initiative by working with the grantee organizations to develop these projects. Both were pilot projects, which we hope will have demonstrable results and leverage additional funding over time.

Specifically, in late 2007, the Mariposa Foundation provided $321,678 over three years to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to fund a new staff position of Advocacy and Policy Advisor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2009, a three-year grant of $1,350,000 was provided to Oxfam Great Britain (Oxfam GB) to create the Research, Development, and Innovation Fund to encourage and test new approaches and products related to water and sanitation issues. The Foundation had a preexisting relationship with both organizations, having provided general operating support and limited project funding since 2004. Prior to the two aforementioned grants, IRC had received a total of $400,000 from the Foundation, and Oxfam had received $180,000.

This case study is the result of a process of reflection on the part of Foundation staff, staff of the two grantee organizations, and independent consultants. It reflects our desire to capture what we are learning in order to strengthen and improve our grantmaking, and also to share with the wider philanthropic community the lessons we have identified thus far.

To be sure, the Foundation recognizes that the work being carried out through these grants is complex and challenging, and difficult to implement under the best of circumstances. Add to that the cultural, geographic, and communication barriers – not to mention the sheer danger – of some of the work, and it makes it that much harder. We understand that this work is painstaking and that progress may be slow and incremental. Therefore, it is imperative to stress that this case study is not meant as a criticism of any person or organization; or to point fingers or otherwise assign blame or fame. It is an exercise that will hopefully improve our grantmaking and benefit the wider philanthropic sector.

In addition, it is critical to note that this report is not intended as an evaluation of the outcomes achieved by these grants, especially as the grants are still in progress and the work long-term in perspective. Moreover, hindsight is always 20/20, and grantmaking is not an exact science. There will always be extenuating circumstances and unforeseen variables that will shape the implementation of a grant, particularly when the work involved is so nuanced and multifaceted. As such, our focus is on analyzing the grantmaking process, identifying key implementation success factors, and distilling the lessons we are learning as an emerging funder in the international humanitarian arena.

Overview of IRC & Oxfam Grants

IRC: Advocacy & Policy Advisor in Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest and most chaotic nations on earth. Engulfed by conflict for over a decade that is estimated to have claimed millions of lives, it remains one of the worst and most forgotten humanitarian crises. Following years of economic and political decline, the war of 1998-2002 led to extreme violence, massive population displacement, widespread rape, and the collapse of public health services.

Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, conflict and eruptions of violence have persisted in eastern provinces causing enormous loss of life. The country continues to suffer major atrocities, including the rape of thousands of women by armed groups. Indeed, the ongoing use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is an especially pernicious problem. According to recent United Nations reports, approximately 500 women were raped in eastern Congo in July and August 2010, and more than 15,000 rapes occurred in both 2008 and 2009.

Horrified by the continuing conflict and human toll in the DRC, Foundation Trustee and Vice President Claire Bernard made a visit to the country in 2007 to learn more about the situation and to find ways that the Foundation could make a difference. The Foundation coordinated the visit closely with the International Rescue Committee, a leading NGO working in over 40 countries providing critical health and emergency response services to those displaced by violence. IRC is one of the largest providers of humanitarian aid in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, working since 1996 to save lives, revive communities and strengthen local capacity for recovery. It is also one of the few organizations to address the crisis of sexual violence in Congo, with a team of experts focusing on emergency care, counseling, prevention measures, advocacy and other support services.

Moved by the immense human suffering in Congo and highly impressed with the work of the IRC there, Bernard held a number of discussions with IRC’s DRC country director at the time, Alyoscia D’Onofrio, about where Mariposa funding could be most helpful. A major gap identified by D’Onofrio was the need to have a dedicated full-time advocacy professional in-country who could raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis and advocate for better international and local government policies. For IRC, this was a new direction since advocacy had not been a high priority for the agency up until that point. Yet through their ongoing work in the DRC they had begun to understand that engaging in advocacy was essential to the success of their programmatic work. While delivering humanitarian aid was certainly critical, they knew that changing national and international policies was the only way to solve the root causes of the problem.

Desiring to be responsive and seeing a unique opportunity to make a real difference, Mariposa provided funding to establish an advocacy position in the DRC. If the position was successful, IRC planned to create similar positions in a number of its key field offices. A three-year grant of $321,678 was made in 2007.

The primary responsibilities of the Advocacy and Policy Advisor (APA) were to include the following:

Through the creation of this position, IRC hoped to achieve the following long-term goals:

Progress to Date

The grant from Mariposa was awarded in December 2007, and hiring began immediately. The first APA was hired in March 2008 and left after three months. The next APA was hired in November 2008 and left after six months. Despite continued efforts to fill the position, IRC struggled to find an experienced professional who had the specialized skills needed and the willingness to live in the DRC. It wasn’t until August 2009 that a stable, long-term hire was made.

IRC sought to compensate for these difficulties by utilizing staff in other IRC offices, as well as hiring temporary employees in the DRC to do the functions of the APA. Yet this strategy had its limitations. With no stable in-country staff person, the DRC country operation lacked consistency in building the networks and contacts that are critical to success in advocacy. Nevertheless, IRC was able to make progress on some goals, such as developing an overarching country advocacy strategy for IRC in the DRC and developing a more targeted strategy around the issue of sexual violence against women and girls.

Progress towards achieving the grant’s goals has accelerated since the position was filled by Marit Glad in August 2009. Glad is a strong advocacy professional with extensive experience working in other humanitarian hotspots such as Afghanistan. She has been effective at building strategic partnerships and networks and strengthening important relationships, both inside and outside the country. One particular success has been IRC’s behind-the-scenes role trying to influence the UN mandate for the UN mission in the DRC. Working in concert with other key international NGOs, Glad was able to help forge a common NGO vision for the UN mission.

Oxfam GB: Research, Development, & Innovation Fund

Worldwide, more than one billion people do not have clean, safe water and 2.6 billion people (approximately half of the developing world) have no basic sanitation. Each year, two million people – most of them children under five – die from diarrhea. In addition, everyday more than 25,000 people die of water-borne diseases. According to Oxfam GB, when combined, appropriate access to water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion can reduce the number of deaths caused by diarrheal diseases by 65 percent, and the simple act of washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrheal diseases by over 40 percent. The link between water, sanitation, and public health is irrefutable. Without clean water, appropriate sanitation, and improvements in public health, any investments made in developing countries are impeded. Children are prevented from attending school because they have to walk long distances to collect water for their families; farmers’ crops fail due to drought or flooding; and mothers are reduced to washing clothes in dirty ponds. In addition, there has been a huge increase in flooding and droughts over the past 20 years, and armed conflicts further exacerbate the fragile water and sanitation facilities in many counties.

The Mariposa Foundation has had a longstanding interest in addressing water issues in the developing world. In 2008, we decided to focus our interest in the Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) field and make a strategic investment in one or two leaders in the sector. After conducting comprehensive research involving numerous meetings with leading experts and organizations, the Foundation solicited project ideas from select NGOs.

Oxfam GB was one of the organizations invited to submit a concept paper. It is one of the world’s largest agencies providing humanitarian water, sanitation and public health promotion and has been working in this area for the last 50 years. The agency has been a longstanding leader in the WATSAN sector, having set the standard for many now commonly used approaches and technologies. Oxfam GB is currently the chair of the Interagency Emergency WATSAN Group and a major supporting NGO to the WASH Cluster process (the United Nation’s work to improve WATSAN during emergency responses).

The project idea set forth by Andy Bastable, Public Health Engineering Coordinator at Oxfam GB, and his team was very compelling to our Trustees, and the organization emerged as the leading candidate in the process. Oxfam GB had long wanted to create a technical fund to promote greater research and development in the sector. However, without dedicated funding, it was constantly struggling to engage in the research and development that is essential to discovering the next generation of technologies and innovations to improve people’s lives. Oxfam presented a plan for a research fund that would support innovative WATSAN projects developed by Oxfam engineers.

The Foundation was very impressed with the thought and development which the organization had committed to the concept of an Innovation Fund, and recognized that it could be a great fit with Mariposa’s core values of risk-taking and innovation. As the details of the fund gelled, we became increasingly excited by the enormous impact it could have not only in the communities where new technologies and methodologies would be piloted, but also in other countries where they could be replicated by Oxfam and other agencies. Mariposa welcomed the chance to impact individual lives, and also influence the water and sanitation field as a whole.

Our Vice President, Claire Bernard, worked with Oxfam for several months to solidify the details of the project and grant award. In March 2009, Mariposa awarded the organization a three-year grant of $1,350,000 to create the Research, Development and Innovation Fund to promote R&D in sustainable water and sanitation technology, showcase developments, and share best practices within Oxfam and beyond. The aim of the Fund is twofold: first, it is intended to assess the gaps in Oxfam and other agencies’ water and sanitation programs and to develop strategies to address these; second, it will invest in those solutions. The Fund will support field projects piloted by Oxfam engineers that will demonstrate sustainable and locally appropriate improvements in water, sanitation, and public health.

The Innovation Fund was established with the following parameters:

It is expected that over the course of three years, the Research, Development and Innovation Fund will achieve the following:

Progress to Date

To date, two rounds of funding have been completed and a total of nine projects have been funded. In the first round, Oxfam GB awarded $442,000 for projects in Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, and Bangladesh, and in the second round, awarded $449,000 for projects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, West Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sri Lanka.

The Foundation has been very excited about the program’s success so far. Of the projects funded in round one, the results of the work in Bangladesh have been particularly exciting. The project has started an important debate on the subject of Ecological Sanitation (Ecosan) in flood prone areas with the government and the United Nations in country. Ecosan is a sanitation process that considers human excrement and household wastewater to be resources that can be recovered, treated where necessary and safely reused. Oxfam’s chief engineer has presented the findings at a number of forums in Bangladesh and will be going to the UK to present the findings at the Global WASH Cluster meeting and Environmental Health Forum in April 2011. The Bangladesh Chuli filter project is being written up with support from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. By publishing the findings of the project, Oxfam hopes that the model will be widely replicated throughout the WATSAN sector. Key Lessons Learned

The Kenya project, while not yet finished, has generated a lot of global discussion on Ecosan and toilets in urban slums; and the Uganda project has done some ground-breaking work with rainwater harvesting from traditional roofs, which Oxfam hopes to replicate in other countries. The project in Haiti has, understandably, been impeded due to the earthquake and the devastation caused.

Though it has achieved impressive results, as discussed in more detail in the next section, there have been some minor challenges with the grant’s implementation.

Key Lessons Learned

As noted earlier, both projects are still very much in progress, and this document is not meant as an assessment of the grantees or the impact of their work. It is, however, a distillation of the knowledge we have gained and the lessons we have learned since funding these special initiatives. The lessons articulated below are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a reflection of those we consider to be the most important to us as grantmakers and the most applicable to others.

The Importance of Having Realistic Expectations

Probably the most critical lesson the Foundation has learned is the need to have more realistic expectations about what can be achieved by our grant dollars and how long it might take to achieve it. When we worked with Oxfam and IRC to develop these grants, we got very excited about the great needs and the opportunity to do something to address them. Yet had we discussed in more detail with Oxfam and the IRC some of the intended outcomes and timelines they’d proposed, we might have realized that all parties were being overly ambitious with respect to expectations. Understandably, both organizations very much aspired to make great strides, in a short period of time, with the funding made available to them. Nevertheless, it is especially vital that both donor and recipient have a realistic time horizon, among other things, when dealing with projects that have complex and uncertain outcomes.

We’ve learned that it’s our job to know enough about the work so that we can ask questions about timing and outcomes – not to challenge the organizations’ expertise, but to ensure that they are not setting themselves up to fall short of unrealistic goals. And we need to make clear that we, as funders, understand the realities of carrying out complex projects in developing nations, and value incremental progress as a stepping stone to accomplishing major goals.

For example, Oxfam is finding that the six-month implementation cycle – envisioned for test projects under the Research, Development, and Innovation Fund – is not long enough, in many cases, to ensure adequate monitoring and evaluation. Many projects have taken more than six months to get off the ground. Unforeseen circumstances, such as severe weather and political turmoil – a fact of life for projects throughout the developing world – have slowed the roll-out of new projects, or significantly impeded their implementation. As a result, the monitoring and evaluation of these projects has been delayed or hindered. This monitoring and evaluation is a critical component of the Fund, as it is needed to prove the validity and effectiveness of each innovation so that they can be replicated. Moreover, the initial plan for the Fund called for projects funded under each grant cycle to roll out on the same timeline. In hindsight, it was unrealistic to think that all of the projects would start and end at the same time. As one interviewee noted, “Innovation does not happen in isolation and a one-size fits all approach is not practical.”

As a result, it is looking likely that Oxfam will need more time to complete three full funding cycles than the three-year timeframe proposed. We do not believe that this extended timeline diminishes the critical work being funded by the Research, Development, and Innovation Fund. It simply speaks to the reality that piloting new Water, Sanitation, and Public Health projects requires an understanding of the sometimes circuitous path implementation may take, and a willingness to adapt to unforeseen realities.

Similarly, some of the difficulties with the implementation of the grant to IRC might have been anticipated and factored into the timeline. Among other things, operating in the DRC is challenging and dangerous, and it stands to reason that it might be difficult to fill the new Advocacy and Policy Advisor position, especially given that the candidate would need highly specialized skills and to be bilingual in English and French. Once that person is in place, they would potentially need significant time to understand the landscape and acclimate themselves to the organization and the country.

More broadly, policy and advocacy work demand a long time horizon to adequately gauge success – much longer than the programs typically funded by Mariposa. Our initial grant agreement with IRC identified such goals as “bringing about positive change in policies and practices on issues of major humanitarian importance to the population of the DRC” and “keeping the plight of the Congolese on the world’s agenda.” It remains our hope that, as a result of this new staff position, those things will ultimately happen. But the Foundation now recognizes that it is unlikely that could happen within three years. Indeed, effective advocacy is based on strong networks and partnerships, which themselves can take years to develop.

Going forward, we plan to pay more attention to the outcomes and timelines of the projects we fund, and to apply our growing knowledge of this work to ensure that we and our grantee partners have realistic and concrete expectations about what can be accomplished. One way the Foundation will do that is to develop grants with more specific short-term indicators – yardsticks that will let us know that progress is being made towards accomplishing our longer-term goals. For example, we could have identified the major networks and relationships that would need to be built in order to effectively implement advocacy strategies in the DRC, or the specific issues that we would want to see highlighted.

The Importance of Strong Leadership

Another key lesson that has come out of our work on these two initiatives is the importance of having strong leadership in place to carry out the work. While organizations’ reputations and infrastructure are important, the ultimate success of a project is largely determined by the commitment, vision and strength of the individual in charge. We have found that it is essential to have an effective organizational champion who can shepherd the project and build a successful team that understands and is committed to the goals of the project. In the case of Oxfam, for example, the staff working together on the Innovation Fund have been a cohesive team for many years and are led by a strong leader who is able to motivate others in pursuit of a clear vision.

At IRC, staff turnover at headquarters and in the DRC complicated the organization’s efforts to fill the Advocacy and Policy Advisor position. The project’s original lead, the country director of the agency’s operation in the DRC, left the position soon after the grant was made. Additional turnover and restructuring in the New York office further added to the difficulties of keeping the project a priority for the organization. An important factor in helping the grant to get back on track was the hiring of a seasoned country director with strong managerial skills. The new director subsequently recruited a former colleague with deep experience in policy work to fill the position. The establishment of this team – together with increased support by key staff in New York, Washington, DC, and other IRC offices actively engaged in communications and advocacy work – has led to an impressive turnaround in the grant and notable progress on a number of important fronts.

Importance of Aligning Project Funding with Core Mission

Although funding pilot projects and new programmatic areas for a grantee can be a highly effective way to pioneer new approaches to addressing problems, it has been our experience that this is most successful when that new work is clearly aligned with the organization’s mission and related to other programs. In the case of IRC, though it had some experience engaging in policy and advocacy work, this was essentially a new direction for the organization. The link between the APA position and IRC’s larger organizational goals and priorities was not very clear. As a result, when there was staff turnover, this project wasn’t given the same priority as sustaining other “core” IRC programs.

Related to this, we have learned the importance of having strong buy-in and support by an organization’s senior leadership to the goals and objectives of the grant. For example, the IRC grant was initially developed with the country director in the DRC. When he left, the project initially stalled. But after headquarters became more actively involved, there was significant progress in the project. Among other things, IRC made a real effort to oversee the work of the Advisor in Congo by ensuring more regular communication with colleagues involved in external relations throughout the IRC network, and holding monthly conference calls with the APA, other IRC staff working on policy and advocacy issues, and senior leaders in New York. The APA position became much less isolated and much more a part of the agency’s global team, which has served to more effectively channel and leverage the work.

The Importance of Good Communication

Between Funder and Grantee

Finally, through this process we’ve come to place a premium on the value of communication with our grantees. As the sole funders of these projects, Mariposa has a lot at stake in their success – much more so than in most of our other grantmaking. While our grants to these major international NGOs were not huge by their standards, they were very large by ours. And we viewed these grants as a learning experience, both for this type of grantmaking and for the sectors involved. As such, we desired and expected a fair amount of interaction with the organizations. The Foundation wanted to know about the status of funded activities, and to hear about what was working, and what wasn’t. We certainly understand that the relationship between funder and grantee is inherently unbalanced, and that grantees may be reluctant to report when difficulties arise. However, when they do, we want to be informed of them so that we can help make mid-course corrections as needed and also adjust our expectations accordingly.

Going forward, the Foundation plans to be more explicit at the outset about its communication needs, letting grantees know that regular and open communication is important to us. We will be more specific about our expectations for reporting requirements, regular phone calls, and candor.


This report has sought to summarize the Mariposa Foundation’s experience so far with two grants that we hope have the potential to be transformational in the humanitarian sector. Though it is still too early to say exactly what the long-term outcomes will be, we have been encouraged by the results to date and look forward to following their progress over the years to come. In the shorter term, we as a foundation have learned a great deal, and this case study is a reflection of our desire to examine the grantmaking process, identify critical implementation success factors, and distill the lessons we are learning both to enhance our own work and also contribute to the larger philanthropic sector.

We look forward to continuing our partnerships with organizations on projects that address deep social and humanitarian problems and feel that the knowledge we have gained makes us that much more prepared and able to collaborate effectively. We have found our experience with Oxfam and IRC to be both rewarding and successful. Yet, even successful grants have lessons to teach. And, even the most well-planned grants can be thrown off track by the very difficult and thorny problems they seek to tackle. As such, a key lesson learned has been the importance of being more specific and realistic about our expectations regarding the timeline of projects, their goals, and the type of communication we would like to have with our partners.

We hope that our experience as a small family foundation funding complex and difficult issues in developing countries will be instructive to others in the field, and will encourage those with limited resources - financial and human - to tackle challenging issues and take risks. We sincerely believe that flexibility, risk-tolerance and innovation are philanthropy's most critical assets. We hope you have found this report to be insightful and though-provoking, and, most importantly, useful.

The Mariposa Foundation makes grants to U.S. based organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Mariposa is a private foundation based in New York City that gives anonymously and defines its areas of interest both by program area and geography. They are humanitarian programs, environmental programs, New York City, and New Orleans. Mariposa is currently working with a strategic set of grantee partners, and is not accepting unsolicited proposals or requests for funding.