Why does IDEX exist?

While women, youth and indigenous communities contribute least to large-scale, global problems—like climate change, poverty and our broken food system—they often are the most impacted by them.

At the same time, with enough support and resources, they are proven and powerful agents for lasting, transformative change. In the Global South and around the world, visionary local leaders are creating and implementing innovative initiatives to build wealth in their communities, fight for true climate action, and transform our food systems for the better.

Investing in leaders on the front lines, who are shaping solutions to these urgent issues, is IDEX’s contribution to a just and sustainable world for all of us.

What is IDEX’s impact?

Over the past 30 years, IDEX has supported more than 500 grassroots, community-led projects led by women, youth and indigenous people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Annually, our partners serve approximately 1.5 million people, enabling farmers to be sustainable agricultural innovators, helping families build income, equipping community members to fight against human-made climate threats, empowering more women as leaders, and much more.

With IDEX’s support, several of our partners have been globally recognized for their game-changing models and solutions, for example: challenging Monsanto on the right to know what is in South Africa’s food; pioneering a new model of joint community ownership of land in India; and empowering hundreds of rural women with new ways to build strong livelihoods in Mexico. Read more.

Three women in WACN office

Women’s Awareness Center (WACN) staff in Nepal.
Photo: Jan Stürmann

How does IDEX do this?

IDEX partners with funders and donors to provide flexible small grants to effective, locally-based organizations in Asia, Africa and Latin America led by women, youth and indigenous leaders, partnering with them for 3-10 years.

We connect our partners to capacity building support, to other funding sources and to each other to build a powerful social justice network in their respective regions and around the world. We help each group develop its own skills, function more effectively, understand its objectives, make high-quality decisions, put plans into action, and evaluate its achievements – supporting people to be agents of long-term, sustainable change in their own societies.

IDEX connects a passionate and engaged network of supporters to the visionary leaders and organizations with whom we work. Through the IDEX Academy, strategic communications,and engagement in alliances, we also educate our colleagues in philanthropy about the power of grassroots-led solutions, working to influence practices of funders and donors.

How does IDEX see social change occurring?

IDEX, through its newly-articulated Theory of Change (see below), has surfaced its long standing assumptions:

  • Existing economic and political systems exclude and marginalize populations including small farmers, indigenous peoples, women, rural communities, land stewards, fisherfolks and slum dwellers.
  • Community-based organizations (CBOs) have the power to build local skills and capacities, to link and mobilize resources, and to create/innovate new systems to end poverty.
  • IDEX exists to shift power dynamics – individuals and communities to step into their power as leaders and game changers; philanthropy to adopt more egalitarian practices and to balance learning between global south and north that engenders hopefulness; raise resources and facilitate connections. IDEX adds value by leveraging and increasing access to resources, acting as a multiplier effect.


IDEX employs the following strategies to achieve its vision for systemic change:

  • Identify innovative, locally-based organizations and engage in partnerships over 3-10 years with flexible small grants
  • Broker and/or provide capacity building support, determined by grassroots partners’ themselves
  • Broker connections to other funding sources – Intentionally build strong ties between leaders and movements globally
  • Advocate for grassroots-led development, local leadership and initiative
  • Work to inform/influence practices of funders and donors

IDEX’s theory of social change puts local people at the forefront, working in an organized way for better conditions and effective, alternative, practices that build towards democratic, equitable and environmentally sustainable solutions. (You can download IDEX’s Theory of Change Toolkit by clicking here.)

Creative Commons License

IDEX Theory of Change by IDEX is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

What is IDEX’s founding story?

Thirty years ago, IDEX was the inspiration of a group of volunteers, some returned Peace Corps volunteers, who had a vision for a different kind of international development model. Together they created IDEX after seeing that small grants targeted to grassroots groups—who had the trust of their neighbors and the knowledge of what was needed in their own communities—was often more effective than traditional large scale philanthropy. Read more on IDEX’s evolution here.

For more frequently asked questions about IDEX, click here.

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