May 22, 2019
by Trevor Tomkins, PhD

Why Invest in ECOPA?

Two years ago I had the privilege to be introduced to Adele Negro by a mutual friend at a dinner in Monterey. It didn’t take but a few minutes for Adele and me to start a conversation that brought our deep interests and passions of “what can be done to make a difference” on behalf of our planet and all those who seek a more livable existence. The evening flew by as Adele told me of the work that she and her multi-disciplinary young teams from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies had been doing in El Salvador. I had spent some time working as an advisor in the dairy fields of Nicaragua and Honduras as well as India, and identified immediately with what Adele was saying.

Adele told me about her efforts to expand her work by setting up ECOPA: Intersections for Sustainable Living. I encouraged her, as I detected not only her deep knowledge of El Salvador based on the time that she had already spent there but also (and equally important) her vision for what a fair, just and sustainable society looks like - a vision that links the stewardship of our physical environment with building human capacity, both organizationally and professionally, to achieve transformative economic and social well-being.

We talked at length about what this actually looks like on the ground, and, in my mind, I was already convinced that this is an organization that I would be prepared to support financially and help fund as a seed donor. I know from my own experience on the boards of not-for-profits that funding is so very critical to success.

The Team Behind the Name

What contributed to that conviction and why have I just contributed a second time? The answer is easy. It is all about the team and the energy that team brings. All good investors know that first and foremost you are backing a team. The ideas are secondary to the success but, of course, must make sense! In this case, the ideas are so fundamental and obvious and whilst ECOPA is not going to pay a real dollar dividend back to its “investors,” it will repay the investment many times over in terms of the change it will bring.

The energy that Adele and her team have is so palpable and their backgrounds impressive. As a professional translator and interpreter, ECOPA’s founding director, Adele, is a master communicator and networker. The members of its Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, of which I am very pleased to be a part, represent an array of professions, and its small volunteer staff comprises the little engine that keeps ECOPA moving forward.

I encourage all of you who read this to consider making ECOPA an organization in which you will invest through a donation. The mission in this case matches the team, and the team matches the mission. I have been working in agricultural development (particularly dairy) across the emerging economies for the past six years, and come from a strong business and technical background. I see the power of “showing” by “engaging,” not “telling!” That is a much longer conversation, but ECOPA is walking the talk! It is so powerful.

Back to Basics

I hope those of you who have read this far will sense just how ECOPA is back to the very basics of what we must do on this planet. So much of what we see, hear and read these days is about ‘big solutions’ that international bureaucracies believe can be brought to solve complex problems. I know first-hand that ‘big solutions’ only emerge from the grassroots work of organizations on the ground, not focused on propping up their overhead, but using every dollar they receive to make things happen on the ground. (I can attest that Adele and her team will not be driving around El Salvador in a fleet of brand new Land Cruisers, which is an atrocity in itself that I have seen among many so-called “non-governmental organizations” in other parts of the world.)

For those of us who are fortunate and able to make a philanthropic gift, I urge you to think about ECOPA. I learned early on that the 14th century proverb, “great oak trees from little acorns grow” is so true. I look forward to seeing ECOPA's progress and witnessing the transformations that I know it will achieve, in no small part because the team behind it understands the people and their culture so deeply. I am very happy to have played a small, albeit supportive, role in helping Adele and her team build this organization.

Should you like to speak to or meet with anyone from ECOPA's board or staff for more information about a possible donation or sponsorship, please do reach out to them! I know they would be delighted to hear from you.