The iLEAP Latin America Leadership Initiative (LALI) is an overarching leadership training and social investment designed to amplify the leadership capacities of the next generation of social leaders in Latin America. It is connected to the iLEAP International Fellowship training and has a particular emphasis on women leaders. LALI was initiated in 2010 and, since that time, iLEAP has held an annual regional gathering in Central America for iLEAP graduates. Prior to 2015, LALI was called the Central America Women’s Leadership (CAWL) initiative.
The Latin American Leadership Initiative (LALI) (formerly called the Central America Women’s Leadership (CAWL) initiative) was created in 2010 in partnership with the Seattle International Foundation with the belief that by recognizing women leaders in Central America and providing them with a transformational experience centered around leadership and partnership in Seattle, that social change in Central America would be strengthened. We believed that graduates of the program would emerge with a greater commitment to their cause, a connection to each other, and that these connections would ignite a “ripple effect” of social change where issues related to women’s empowerment, social justice, and human rights in the region would be transformed and changed.
LALI was started with four main goals.
The first goal had three parts: to identify and energize mid-career Central American women working for social change, advance their leadership skills in their field of work and their organizations, and renew their capacity to sustain this difficult work. iLEAP’s experience in the region noted that social leaders in Central America have little opportunity for capacity building and leadership training, much less women leaders who are often juggling multiple responsibilities while addressing poverty, inequality, and violence in their communities. Furthermore, many of these women do not identify themselves as leaders, despite the fact that they have many of the defining characteristics.
Since returning home, I have felt inspired by my work because now I know that I am connected to people and organizations all around the world. I had over 13 years of experience working for women and community. However, I did not consider myself a leader before I came to Seattle on the program. But now, I recognize that I am a leader. And I am even more motivated to help other women in my community become empowered as grass-roots change leaders.”
iLEAP Graduate from Guatemala
This also speaks to the second goal of LALI to bring a greater global and cross-cultural awareness to each LALI participant. Specifically, it was to leverage the diversity of the Seattle global development and civil society sector and cultivate relationships with a community of people working for change in Washington state. In creating LALI, iLEAP felt that the social and ecological challenges faced by local communities in Central America needed to have larger exposure in the world, particularly in the United States. Along these lines, during their time in Seattle, the LALI fellows could serve as international advocates for their causes and seed relationships with potential partners and supporters.
The third goal was to build a network of graduates in Central America rooted in the principles of relationship and trust that are pillars of the iLEAP curriculum. This network would be a way for these women leaders to sustain their personal and professional growth trajectories, grow new partnerships among their number, and expand their political and social influence in the region.
Finally, the fourth and most important goal was that these graduates would take their experience in the program and amplify it out into advancing social change around their field of impact. Whether it was youth advocacy, gender-based violence, sustainable agriculture, or education – the goal was that graduates would touch and change many more lives as the result of the iLEAP experience.
Click here to download our Impact Report from 2014.