History of PADF

"To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge – to convert our good words into good deeds—in a new alliance for progress – to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty."

— U.S. President John F. Kennedy, 1961 


The year after U.S. President John F. Kennedy boldly announced the creation of the Alliance for Progress, an initiative that established a partnership between the U.S. and Latin America, the Pan American Development Foundation was born, created in 1962 with the support of the Organization of American States andwith financial backing from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Social Progress Trust Fund, the OAS, and corporate and private donors.

The thrust behind the creation of the Foundation was the desire to create an institution that could mobilize the private sector to assist the most vulnerable people of the hemisphere through productive employment in microenterprises, technical training, civil society development, national entrepreneurship, and the facilitation of corporate social responsibility. In those early years, PADF became one of the first organizations to promote public-private partnerships and provide a mechanism through which multinational and local companies could participate in development programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Caterpillar and Pfizer were two of the first companies to support PADF. Meanwhile, the emergence of the Penny Foundation in Guatemala in the late 1950s, which provided small loans to indigenous people and rural residents who had no access to credit—later made famous by Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank—served as the inspiration for PADF.

The Alliance for Progress initiated by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961 aimed to establish economic cooperation between North and South America and, among other goals, increase incomes, improve literacy, and promote democracy.

The Alliance for Progress initiated by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961 aimed to establish economic cooperation between North and South America and, among other goals, increase incomes, improve literacy, and promote democracy.

It didn’t take long for PADF to take the successful methods used by the Penny Foundation to the rest of the hemisphere. Beginning with assistance to private sector leaders in the Dominican Republic, PADF created 33 similar national foundations in other countries during the 1970s and 1980s. They pioneered some of the first modern microenterprise programs andserved to encourage greater private sector involvement in cutting edge development programs. PADFs model microenterprise programs were highlighted as the type of projects that benefit the poor majority, symbolizing in the 1970s the U.S. Congressional “New Directions” legislation that mandated that an increasing amount of aid be directed directly to the poorest segments of the population.

In the 1980s, PADF was a key player in supporting the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the Central American Initiative (CAI) with major new programs implemented in Haiti, Grenada, Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize, and Guyana. In these countries PADF developed or expanded microenterprise development programs, and implemented actions to strengthen local civil society groups, especially technical training institutes. In Haiti specifically, the Foundation began its longstanding commitment to accelerate national development, strengthen community-based organizations and nurture grassroots democracy.  Through these efforts PADF pioneered new development initiatives, such as agroforestry, soil conservation, participatory rural community development, and community-driven development and employment, including the development of microenterprises. In later decades, it focused on Hillside Agricultural Production (HAP), natural disaster preparedness, protection of human rights, and integrated urban reconstruction efforts, among others.

In the 1990s, PADF expanded its work in the region. It supported the implementation of the peace process in Nicaragua by assisting the demobilization of ex-combatants and El Salvador Peace Accords through developing and strengthening civil society groups that incorporated participants of all segments of society.

Since 2001, PADF has served as a support mechanism for the Inter-American Democratic Charter by facilitating the strengthening of civil society and grassroots democracy in Latin American and the Caribbean. During the 2000s the Foundation implemented more than $250 million to support Colombia, generating employment, technical training and community services for more than one million low-income and marginalized Colombians, Afro-Colombians, indigenous and other excluded groups.

We are proud to say that PADF has evolved into the leading instrument to support the most important OAS initiatives for integral development, regional disaster reduction, civil society strengthening, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Our teams have worked closely with local non-profits, forming alliances with municipalities, government agencies, corporate and private donors to develop microenterprises, provide employment and technical training, facilitate citizen participation in community-action programs, and aid victims of natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

Today, PADF is a development leader and innovator within the Inter-American system, mobilizing in 50 years the equivalent of more than $1 billion for projects and working in every country in the hemisphere. Our Foundation embodies the spirit of hemispheric solidarity and cooperation envisioned by President Kennedy and others pioneers of Pan Americanism.

It’s the kind of spirit we’re working each day to extend to millions of people throughout the Americas.


The Organization of American States creates PADF in support of President John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. PADF is established to complement programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) by mobilizing private sector support for community-based initiatives.


Based on experiences from the late 1950s, the Guatemalan Penny Foundation is founded to low-income people with no access to credit. It served as the model for PADF’s National Development Foundation (NDF) Movement. That year, PADF receives a seed grant of $5,000 from the Sloan Foundation and donations from Caterpillar and Pfizer.


Based on experiences from the late 1950s, the Guatemalan Penny Foundation is founded to low-income people with no access to credit. It served as the model for PADF’s National Development Foundation (NDF) Movement. That year, PADF receives a seed grant of $5,000 from the Sloan Foundation and donations from Caterpillar and Pfizer.


PADF receives its first USAID grant to support the establishment of National Development Foundations that provide a vehicle for mobilizing local private sector leaders to support micro-enterprises and community development.


PADF helps establish the first NDF in the Dominican Republic.


PADF joins forces with Tools for Freedom program to channel U.S. vocational equipment Latin America and the Caribbean. Later named Tools for Training, this program has served thousands of needy students learning trades and seeking jobs. PADF’s new Health Services Program sends its first shipment to Chile.


PADF-supported NDFs are initiated in other countries, such as Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Argentina, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. PADF also provides humanitarian assistance for the first time to Honduras and El Salvador.


The United States government establishes the Inter-American Foundation to promote grassroots community activism, similar to programs pioneered by PADF.


PADF is highlighted as a model program for U.S. Congressional New Directions legislation because of its focus on working with the “poor majority” with income generation and productive enterprises.


The OAS names PADF a “special purpose foundation” and a “service foundation,” recognizing its focus on poverty alleviation and services to the poor. PADF registers with USAID as a private voluntary organization and achieves consultative status with the UN.


PADF signs agreement with the Pan American Health Organization for technical cooperation and evaluation of health programs.


A four-year agroforestry program begins in Haiti and the Haitian Development Foundation is established


The OAS and PADF sign a formal cooperative agreement ratified by the Permanent Council. PADF remains the only OAS foundation approved by the General Secretariat and the Permanent Council.


PADF begins agriculture and rural development projects in the Eastern Caribbean,Honduras, and Belize


PADF holds the first Contact Forum for Latin American and Caribbean nongovernmental organizations.


The final NDFs are created in Honduras and in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. PADF expands its program in Honduras, increasing support to micro-enterprises, strengthening civil society and developing the country’s first federation of NGOs (FOPRIDEH). Honduras is one of PADFs largest programs.

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International NGOs such as Action International begin replicating micro-enterprise programs pioneered by PADF in earlier decades.


A $30 million PADF program for job creation begins in Haiti with USAID funding.


PADF work with municipal development begins in Argentina, Guatemala, Peru and other countries and launches first efforts to build linkage between local governments and NGOs.


The World Bank and the Government of Haiti fund a second $30 million Haiti jobs program.


The United Nations and philanthropists such as Ted Turner use the Pan American Development Foundation and its relationship with the Organization of American States as a model for creating the UN Foundation.


PADF begins an employment project with internally displaced Colombians. PADF also signs a regional strategic alliance for disaster assistance with the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA).


USAID establishes its Global Development Alliance (GDA) to promote public-private partnerships and corporate social responsibility, similar toinitiatives implemented by PADF during the prior four decades.


The Health Services Program generates more than $615,000 in donations and equipment deliveries, which include hospital equipment and supplies to medical institutions in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. PADF’s USAID-funded Hillside Agriculture Project, which runs until 2006, rejuvenates Haiti’s exports of premium specialty coffees sold in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, resulting in assistance to more than 58,000people, crop revenue increases of $1.14 million, and the facilitation of $795,000 in farmer loans.


PADF launches a remittance-based economic development initiative that supports U.S.-based immigrant groups from El Salvador, Haiti, and Mexico who are working to improve education and infrastructure, generate jobs, increase incomes, and provide sustainable opportunities for communities in their countries of origin.


With U.S. Department of Agriculture and Government of Haiti backing, PADF supports the development of rural Haiti by improving mountain roads, repairing irrigation systems, retrofitting primary schools, planting more than 200,000 trees, and protecting and reclaiming arable land.


A program to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters benefits more than 165,000 people in 70 communities in Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Colombia. PADF implements with the Bolivian government and 180 municipalities a major program for productive rural development projects.


Through the Our Border program, PADF reaches more than 100,000 Haitians and Dominicans by strengthening 43 local civil society organizations in the cross-border region that year alone. PADF also assists the Haitian Parliament to create a special border commission that results in a significant increase in funding for the border region.


PADF’s In-Kind Donations program reaches more than 1 million people in nine countries, including Peru, Ecuador, Jamaica, and Uruguay, with medical equipment and tools for training.


PADF’s benefits more than 17,500 students, teachers, and parents through the Manos Unidas por El Salvador program, which serves as a transnational model for improving education. In Colombia,more than 289,500 internally displaced persons receive support ranging fromeducation and psychological services, to new infrastructure and job training.


After the deadly January 12 Haiti earthquake, PADF delivers $2.2 million in private sector and individual aid to more than 1.7 million people. It partners with the Ministry of Public Works and Miyamoto International to develop a program to inspect the safety of more than 412,000 buildings impacted by the earthquake.


In Haiti, PADF speeds up efforts to repair multi-family homes in Léogâne, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, with a $1.98 million grant from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and a $1 million grant from equipment manufacturer Caterpillar. PADF also announces a $1.2 million expansion of Colombia’s South-South Cooperation Program, a program funded by Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.



The Colombian government expands its partnership with PADF by providing funds for developing micro-enterprises among the country’s displaced population and for implementing  income generation projects with Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups.  Colombia turned to PADF because of our proven track record of delivering results in challenging environments and our 50 years of experience of working with micro and community enterprises in many different settings throughout the Americas.