Frequently Asked Questions

The FMSD is a non profit that has focused during its 53 years of operation on helping micro enterprises, providing quality education for low income families, supporting the arts, and facilitating access to social interest housing. Although it began its operation in Barranquilla, Colombia, its scope has subsequently expanded to the country at large, and it now operates in 3 areas  - Cartagena, Barranquilla and Bogotá. Recently (2007-8) it decided to focus on the development of 2 large-scale housing projects, known as Macro projects (Macroproyectos de Interés Social Nacional –MISN), in Barranquilla (Villas de San Pablo) and Cartagena (Ciudad del Bicentenario)

The so called Macroprojects are a legal and operational framework that allows the Colombian national government to partner with local governments in the development of large scale housing projects, targeted mostly to low income families. The framework facilitates access to land, and ensures that the necessary infrastructure, transportation facilities and recreation areas are in place to support the housing project. The framework also allows for the channeling of government (both national and local) subsidies. In the case of the FMSD, families benefit from inclusive financial products e.g. micro loans, to ensure that they have sufficient funds to put down a deposit and close a housing deal. The FMSD projects have the potential for building more than 40.000 houses in these two sites.

The Colombian Housing Ministry (MVCT) commissioned the construction of 1.800 houses from the FMSD within the existing Macroprojects in Barranquilla and Cartagena. The selection of beneficiaries for these houses follows the criteria established by the Law 1537 issued on December 2012. Hence the FMSD does not have any influence on this process.

In line with its social mission and results oriented nature, the FMSD decided to go beyond the construction of houses. In each Macroproject the aim is to build sustainable communities. The model of intervention is known as Comprehensive-Integrated Development for Sustainable Communities (DINCS is its Spanish acronym). As the name implies, it aims at building a cohesive community rather than just a collection of houses. The FMSD’s role is to accompany and empower the community so that it leads its own development process. The road map for this process is a local development plan designed and implemented by the community itself, via participatory mechanisms such as a community board (Junta de Acción Comunal –JAC). The aim of this plan is to ensure ownership by the community and in turn, sustainability and cohesion among its members/families. Staff from the local governments guide and support these processes and work to ensure good governance.  

The non-profit nature of the FMSD allows it to go beyond its developmental role e.g. the building of houses. Inhabitants of these projects are able to be part of a community that creates cohesion and sustainability via robust governance and the implementation of a clear road map. During the purchasing stage, they are able to benefit from the FMSD microfinance unit (Yo Prospero) especially, from its microloans to secure closing.  Families also benefit from the projects ability to channel investments from the national and local governments, the private sector and international organizations. An important source of resources that the community can access is the FMSD’s Social Fund. This Fund results from the revenues of the development operation and allows the community to leverage other investments, promote cooperatives, etc. 

As manager of the Macroprojects in Cartagena and Barranquilla, the FMSD works closely with Mayors’ offices, which are responsible for the provision of key infrastructure, such as roads and utilities. Local governments are also responsible for helping citizens living in the Macroprojects of Ciudad del Bicentenario and Villas de San Pablo to exercise their rights. The FMSD supports local governments in the establishment of participatory mechanisms during the design of the local development plans, and in leveraging investments in the communities. The FMSD, through its social coaching component, informs families about how to access the different programs. It also provides demographic information/data on the communities to facilitate public policy making and the design and implementation of programs and strategies.  

One of the attributes of the so-called Macroprojects of National Interest (MISN is its Spanish acronym) is that they allow for the establishment of a fiduciary fund (Patrimonio Autónomo) to channel both public and private funds. The Ministry of Housing, and local governments, allocated subsidies to both Macroprojects and identified potential beneficiaries for the FMSD. Eligible candidates then apply to the Ministry’s subsidies management agency (FONVIVIENDA). The FMSD grants microloans to those families interested on these products to enable them to put down the necessary deposit to secure a house. Some families are eligible for both the national and local government’s subsidies minimizing the need for a deposit. 

The FMSD implements an innovative intervention model which aims to build sustainable communities, going beyond simply building a collection of houses. A community of this sort stems from 3 elements: housing development, the creation of social infrastructure and social coaching. Community development and empowerment is carried out in tandem with staff from the local governments of Barranquilla and Cartagena. They lead the processes related to the establishment of participatory processes, and the design of local development plans. In general they are in charge of encouraging good governance within the communities. The communities living in FMSD Macroprojects have the opportunity to envision their future, and assisted by the FMSD, with its ability to leverage funds from local and national government, private sector and international organizations, to satisfy their needs in critical areas such as education, health and income generation. The community is trained in project design and in the process of fundraising and in ensuring that it has a voice in policy making.

The FMSD’s current Macroprojects in Barranquilla and Cartagena have the potential to create 40.000 houses. This size means that its operation will concentrate in these sites for the next years. The intervention model entitled DINCS, moreover, is cutting edges in many ways and its complexity poses challenges in terms of sustainability. The FMSD aims at consolidating the model in these pilots, putting special emphasis on knowledge management and documentation, to facilitate a potential scale up.  Further projects will require robust ownership by prospective local government as the model requires significant investments by them in infrastructure and social programs.  

Ciudad del Bicentenario in Cartagena and Villas de San Pablo already have an early childhood development (ECD) center for up to 680 infants, and have secured funding from the national government for 2 schools of up to 1.440 students, which will be constructed by the government’s executing agency FINDETER. These projects will also have special security provided by the National Police, through the so-called Plan de Reforzamiento de la Vigilancia por Cuadrantes. Both projects will also have a health center, a second ECD center and an Internet center. Villas de San Pablo also has a technological training center. 

Each Macroproject has a management office with FMSD personnel. Each of these offices has a group focused on community development and knowledge management responsible for, among other things, data collection and Client Relation Management (CRM). FMSD also supports the community in liaising with local governments in order to establish of participatory processes and designing local development plans. Another group supports the project design and fundraising for social infrastructure such as schools, health centers and early childhood development centers. The so-called DINCS Management Offices (Gerencias DINCS) also work closely with FMSD contractors and developers especially on client management relations.      

FMSD projects beneficiaries are numerous and they are not only concentrated in Barranquilla and Cartagena. The Foundation’s impact reaches other regions of Colombia and the world at large thanks to the different partnerships and donations. In addition to the Macroprojects in Barranquilla and Cartagena, and the strategic alliance with the Governor of the Atlantic Office, the FMSD has historically supported strategic initiatives and organizations such as PROFAMILIA, the University of los Andes and COLFUTURO. Given its results-oriented nature, the FMSD has joined catalytic initiatives where it can complement public services/policies, such as the Early Childhood Development policy, De Cero a Siempre, via the Alianza Primero lo Primero, and the management of the Canal del Dique, via The Nature Conservancy.

The sustainability of the targeted communities is the main goal of the FMSD. Sustainability is sought not only in terms of natural resources, but also in terms of the community’s ownership and the ability of each family to generate its own income. The DINCS model is innovative in the sense that its financial mechanisms allow the developer to leverage public resources to minimize investment costs. In the case of the FMSD, given its non-profit nature, revenues are in turn channeled to a social fund, which the community can access to support the implementation of the local development plan. Large scale projects such as the FMSD ones, end up building mini cities, so it is important to ensure that families are integrate properly into local labor markets and achieve commercial balance. Social infrastructure promoted by the FMSD and other projects aim at this goal.

Although the DINCS model in Barranquilla and Cartagena works around housing, its focus on sustainability via integral approaches applies to the Barú islands despite the absence of a Macroproject itself. Social development of the communities of Barú, Ararca and Santa Ana has been promoted by the FMSD initially via housing improvements support, fishing programs with the IADB, and reproductive health programs carried out by PROFAMILIA. During the last years the FMSD’s presence has focused on the foundation and management of 2 critical institutions: the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Clinic (created in 1993) and the Ecological Institute of Barbacoas (established in 1997), a public school with more than 10.000 students. Recently, FMSD personnel have been supporting the community in the establishment of participatory mechanisms for the design of a local development plan that takes into account cultural differences between the Cartagena population and those of the islands.    

The Mario Santo Domingo Foundation (FMSD) is one of the oldest in Colombia. During its more than 53 years it has implemented numerous projects via donations and partnerships, with the public sector, international organizations, and other private partners.  One worth highlighting is the Early Childhood Development (ECD) public/private partnership entitled Primero lo Primero. This program is building 35 ECD centers throughout Colombia, benefiting more than 18.000 infants of low-income families. Another strategic program is the partnership with Kiva.org to support microenterprise: more than 80.000 microloans have been granted in the last 5 years. In response to natural disasters, the FMSD has also supported local governments in repairing and reconstructing housing (via the Todo Será Mejor programs), as well as the repairing of educational facilities (via the Ola Escolar alliance). In Barú, the FMSD has also strengthened the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Clinic, and the Ecological Institute of Barbacoas.   

The 2010-12 floods were a major tragedy for the Atlantic State of Colombia. Building on its experience, the FMSD responded to the request of the Governor’s office to find judicial mechanisms to expedite resources execution. As a result, the Todo Será Mejor program was designed and implemented, resulting in the improvement of more than 7.000 houses in the south of the state and the construction of temporary camps. In Barranquilla, a similar program of self-repairs was also implemented benefiting more than 2.500 families. Recently, new houses have been built or are in the process of, in other municipalities of the Atlantic State: 31 houses in Campo de la Cruz, 29 in Santa Lucia, 55 in Candelaria, 28 in Villa Rosa, 55 in Tubará, 40 in Bohórquez and 20 in Puerto Giraldo. A land bank is being established to acquire land for another 260 houses.