Based in California, ECOPA is an international 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization connecting human needs with human skills to create win-win engagements across the Americas.

Our Mission

ECOPA works to collaboratively design and implement inclusive solutions to complex economic, socio-cultural and environmental problems in order to achieve lasting community transformation.

Focusing primarily in El Salvador, as an epitome of these global issues, our innovative programmatic work operates at the intersection of ecological stewardship, economic well-being, community empowerment, organizational capacity, professional development and academic engagement

Our Work

Building on the extensive social capital and decade of work already established in rural El Salvador, ECOPA continues to bring together human resources and expertise in response to the expressed needs of our partners for locally-directed economic development and improved community livelihood.

Our work is informed by:

  • a fundamental commitment to participatory community building.
  • the consideration of sustainable development as a collaborative process and a platform for dialogue, commitment and engagement over time.
  • a strong commitment to enduring relationships with partner communities and the resolution of shared problems.

Our Partners

ECOPA's primary partners on the ground in El Salvador are local grassroots organizations formed by repatriated civil war refugees, members of which are predominantly subsistence farmers and fisherfolk whose livelihoods depend on the viability of their local ecosystems. These organizations reach into eight municipalities of southeastern El Salvador, with positive impact on a population of approximately 35,000.

Over the past decade, the scope of our work has grown to include collaborations with a number of academic institutions in the U.S. and across the Americas, as well as other nonprofit organizations that provide voluntary and strategic technical expertise to these primary partners. ECOPA has also been privileged to work with experts and officials in the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Governance.

Please contact us if you and/or your educational institution, nonprofit organization or company would like to support or participate in our work!

Our Story

ECOPA was formally established in 2018 by founding director Adele Negro to build on the work carried out by Team El Salvador, the graduate-level immersive learning practicum in sustainable development which she oversaw as Adjunct Faculty for the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) from 2006 to 2016.

The project work during that decade was guided by Adele and other professors but largely managed and led each year by student teams, in response to identified needs of the grassroots partner organization, the Mangrove Association and its 90+ constituent communities. The work aimed at supporting the integrated development strategies of these communities.

In collaboration with the leadership of the Mangrove Association, the applied research and project-based work of Team El Salvador focused primarily on:

  • survey design and data analysis;
  • environmental policy-making and coastal resource management;
  • business planning and marketing strategies;
  • local program evaluation and monitoring;
  • organizational capacity-building and community education.

At its 10-year mark, the program was halted due to funding deficits and escalated in-country violence. Recognizing the opportunity in this (down)turn of events, Adele recruited student teams led by past participants and a handful of supportive professors to reevaluate the program's impact on stakeholders, assessing its organizational sustainability and potential capacity for development.

These evaluations identified that the nature of the work required more involvement from field experts in areas like diversified agriculture, sustainable fisheries, spatial/urban design, environmental planning, and business development. Leveraging the extensive social capital built throughout the program’s first decade, Adele founded ECOPA to expand this work in El Salvador, with plans to both replicate and adapt it in Argentina, Colombia, México and beyond.