Institutional Development

. . There is greater professionalism and direction in Caribbean conservation NGOs today. There is also a growing commitment to fostering more open and democratic environmental organizations. The most effective NGOs actively promote an interactive style of participation — in their memberships, governing boards, and staff. In these organizations there is a combination of idealism, creativity, individual energy and personally supportive relationships that in an intangible way contributes to the internal dynamics of successful institutional development.


The strengthening of indigenous Caribbean institutions has been an integral part of the Foundation’s mandate since 1972 when Island Resources Foundation provided an institutional base and support services for the Caribbean Conservation Association, whose secretariat was located at the Foundation’s headquarters in the U.S. Virgin Islands until 1975.

A decade later, the Foundation embarked on an even more ambitious institutional support program, designed to provide development assistance for environmental NGOs in the Eastern Caribbean . This nine-year initiative (1986-95) was the largest single program to target specifically the role of the private sector in Caribbean environmental affairs; it represented an overdue policy recognition by international and bi-lateral organizations of a longstanding Foundation assertion, namely, that non-governmental organizations have a major role to play in the management of the region’s environment. Four papers arising from the NGO strengthening project have proven long-term favorites for users seeking a distillation of basic management lessons for small environmental NGOs. We have direct links to downloads of these four tools in the “Major Publications” page of this website.

The Foundation also recognized the importance of individual leadership in advancing environmental stewardship and balanced development. In 1988, the Euan P. McFarlane Environmental Leadership Award was established by Island Resources Foundation to acknowledge — with an annual $1,000 award — a Caribbean national who demonstrated initiative, resourcefulness and leadership in promoting conservation and enhancement of the environment in the insular Caribbean. With the sunsetting of IRF, since 2015 the McFarlane Environmental Leadership Award has been managed by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands as a part of its program of support to youth, learning, family support and the environment.

The Foundation also was a leader in the development of information management models that actively encourage improved environmental decision making. By the 1990s, emerging new technologies had begun to re-focus attention on information management needs, and the Foundation was at the forefront of that process in the Caribbean. At the same time, IRF began to support several dozen electronic mail lists, established in response to constituent requests and covering diverse subject matter from Caribbean biodiversity to Geographic Information Systems to sustainable tourism. Several e-mail groups are still being supported as part of the Foundation’s legacy; they are listed at this page and on the downloadable document:  irf-mailing-lists