MAPLE Field Update: Half-way Into Pilot

Between innovative transformations and everyday life

By: Alison guzman and ignacio krell

When we arrived in 2013 from Oregon to the Llaguepulli community´s home, the ancestral Lafkenche territory (Ayllarewe) of Budileufu, or Lake Budi, their purpose of creating a “Mapuche Bank” there was a germinal one, with infinite possibilities, and all yet to be done. To our honor and after one year of dialogues, we were invited to begin on a “blank slate” and to gradually be guided by the community in their quest to establish their own innovative indigenous finance model.

From Left:  Vivi, Nadia, Virginia, Ito, young Ayen, Palo, Fresia, Alison, and Luzmira standing outside the group's new office.

From Left: Vivi, Nadia, Virginia, Ito, young Ayen, Palo, Fresia, Alison, and Luzmira standing outside the group's new office.

A year and a half later, the idea has turned into a concrete entity, the Lafkenche Mutual Support Group, and as its potential is becoming ever clearer, our team also faces increased responsibility.

A little bit about us. MAPLE Microdevelopment, as a global organization with presence in Uganda, Chile and Oregon, specializes in creating and consolidating self-sustainable and self-managed finance institutions from within marginalized communities. We cater to the needs of our community partners through embedded intercultural teams using multidimensional “microdevelopment” methodologies that stem from interaction and mutual learning.

In June 2013, fieldwork began in Chile (our first project in Latin America, and the first of its kind in a Mapuche indigenous context) with us, and two community women leaders, Nadia and Fresia, forming the interdisciplinary team that would conduct community dialogues and comprehensive studies based on quantitative and qualitative tools. This, in preparation for the pilot implementation of a culturally appropriate institution: An institution that the community, in itself diverse, could own, to holistically strengthen their Lof - communal territory that includes all life-forms.

In March of 2014, two additional community practitioners -Viviana and Silvia- joined our team, and in May, we started up the pilot Mutual Support Group, with 25 founding members. As a mechanism of inclusiveness built upon traditional practices (we "discovered” in our 2013 study), each member made deposits in either currency or local produce and services.

Agreed upon by-laws established that indigenous autonomy and self-regulation of the institution, based on az-Mapu, or Mapuche MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile Field Update- November 2014Cultural Norms, were to be safeguarded by Llaguepulli´s Longko and other leaders gathered in the Group´s Resolution Council.

In June 2014, the Group of Mutual Support made their first loans. And now, in November, they just inaugurated a fully operating office providing regular mutual support services.

During this year and a half of collaboration and dialogues, our main goal has been to design institutional forms that complement current ways of self-management and self-regulation of the Mapuche community. And as sought for, the new institution, the Llaguepulli Mutual Support Group, is becoming a part of everyday life.

The institution will keep evolving, organically and through design, to reflect the essence of Mapuche values as it becomes part of the Lof. We welcome this tool as an everyday tool that members and their families can begin to reinvent as an everyday social practice. Our main challenge is from now on to safeguard its strengths and build upon them, while maintaining the quest for the fullest potential of the new model.

We can do this by incorporating education and cultural awareness activities; events that allow us to communicate our achievements and challenges. For example, back in September, the four managers of the management team decided to organize a trafkintun. This type of event has sought to revitalize the ancient practice of gift exchange, which for the Mapuche people continues to be of vital importance in the eco-cultural resilience of their peoples.

The event was attended by over 150 people (apologies, no pictures could be taken), with whom they could share local products but also ideas and forward-thinking discussions on strengthening the economies of Mapuche communities and territories, and their ability to dynamically resist pressures from complex global changes.

Everyone agreed that now is ever more important to make visible the viable community organizational models that can strengthen the economic and socio-environmental resilience of indigenous peoples´ communities and territories. And that is what MAPLE is all about.