Co-responsibility in building the public good in Latin America and the Caribbean, the 12th Regional Conference of the ISTR

By Jorge Villalobos and Romina Farías, Cemefi.


What is the role of the State in the processes of moral and material reconstruction after an armed conflict, and how do survivors and displaced people live together? This was one of the questions that Julieta Lemaitre raised during the inaugural conference of the 12th. Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research, ISTR, of the Latin American and Caribbean network, that took place from July 2 to 5 at the EAFIT University of Medellin in Colombia.

From her research, “The state is always late”, Lemaitre explored in her research “The state is always late, the process after violence and the role that family networks and neighborhoods play for the construction of these new societies in which the government arrives once they are already organized.

Her research was familiar to many countries in this region that are experiencing similar social situations, whether due to problems of violence, forced displacement or lack of opportunities.

The fact that the regional ISTR Conference was held in Colombia, generated a warm dynamic. This country is in the north of South America, or could be the center of Latin America, depending on how you see it, and Medellín provided an important opportunity to bring the 111 assistants of 15 countries attending this Conference closer. This helped to set the context and better understand their citizenship formation process, the dialogue between government and society and the outstanding collaboration of companies in the construction of the common good. Hence the theme of this Conference “Co-responsibility in building the public good in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Although most of the research was from Brazil, Mexico, the United States, Ecuador and Peru, the presence of academics from Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Spain and Puerto Rico, to name a few, helped to add diversity to the meeting and broaden the vision. From the participation in this Latin American and Caribbean network – which already includes 135 members – comparative research has been generated between countries, especially in relation to legal frameworks or case studies.

Something very interesting was the panel The role of corporate foundations on policy making, organized by the EAFIT University, which showed the work that Colombian corporate foundations have undertaken to influence public decision-making, based on their participation in thematic networks, created to modify the reality of certain problems such as childhood.

In this panel, the experiences about the interesting and complex transformative process of the foundations were presented. They have learned to assume themselves as key civil society organizations, – beyond their role as private organizations that operate their own programs aligned to the strategy of the company-, with the implication of maintaining peer relationships with multiple actors, and with whom they have built new network governance processes, not losing sight of the purpose to the change.

In summary, the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Network, which was established 20 years ago, has undoubtedly led to the development of themes together, contributed to generate research agendas, opportunities for dialogue between peers and made visible projects generated, from the academic sector in the region.

Challenges still remain in enhancing the participation of more countries in the Caribbean region. Although without a doubt, the contribution that the ISTR has achieved with this network has allowed to researchers to strength the communication among them, and to try to find possible solutions to some of main problems of the Third Sector of the region.



J Circle Picture


Jorge Villalobos

Excecutive President of Cemefi


R Circle Picture



Romina Farías

Research Coordinator of Cemefi.



Since 2008, Cemefi and CIESC are in charge of the Secretariat for the Latin American and the Caribbean Network of the ISTR.

Centro Mexicano para la Filantropía – Cemefi is a Mexican nonprofit member association, founded in 1988.  Cemefi’s membership is composed of 1655 nationwide Organizations, Foundations, Corporations, Specialized Consultants and Government users, and more than 1700 business and corporations are users of CSR programs and services. More information:

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