Japiqay was one of the two groups we supported in Latin America from 2016 to 2018 through the Matchbox partnership. During that time, they designed and created Memoria y Ciudadania, with the help of HURIDOCS, David Losada, Catalina Margozzini, Felipe Alvarez, as well as the Matchbox team lead by Anca Matioc.
We asked them about their experience with the Matchbox partnership and The Engine Room. Anca Matioc, our regional lead for Latin America and for Matchbox, conducted the interview in Spanish. It’s been translated to English, edited, and condensed for clarity.
Anca: Hello Gabriela and Lourdes! Can you start by telling us a bit about Japiqay and the work you do?
Gabriela (Executive Director and co-founder of Japiqay): Japiqay is a new [Peruvian] organization that seeks to fight against corruption and impunity from civil society.
The organisation seeks to strengthen a strong, real, informed and participatory citizenship, active in the processes of public decision-making. We seek to achieve this through two critical methods: one, the reconstruction of a collective memory for analysis and advocacy, and two; exercising our right to information and to the truth, since all societies have the right to know their own history.
Japiqay is a word in Quechua, a language indigenous to Peru, which means “to retain in the memory in order to learn”. That is what we want to contribute; the construction of this memory and of our history as an element that allows us to learn from the past, understand the present, and contribute to improving and changing our future.
Anca: The Matchbox partnership is relatively unique in that it offers intensive and holistic support; what prompted you to apply for this specific partnership in 2016?
Gabriela: We applied because we needed support in using tech, since our project “Memoria y Ciudadania” (Memory and Citizenship) lacked a critical technological component. Upon digging deeper into the open call, we saw that the support was much more than just the technological accompaniment. So we decided to apply!
I also have to say that this was the perfect occasion and support that we needed to turn this idea into a reality – an idea that had been churning around in our heads for many years.
Lourdes Chávez (Project Director and co-founder of Japiqay): I was interested in The Engine Room because it seemed to be a different experience than ones that I had previously had with donors. They support with a grant based on an idea, they give you the grant, then you’re held accountable for the execution of it. In general however, how you implement [the project] does not matter to them.
On the other hand, the Matchbox partnership seemed like a unique proposal. It’s a new way to enter a community of global activists, with local organizations that have matching values to yours such as the fight against corruption and for human rights. [The partnership] has a value far beyond the material, it has long-term value. It makes your organization more likely to be sustainable…
The support that you give is much more powerful than a grant that you’re given and instructed to implement as is, because you cultivate relationships, as people, between human beings. Feeling that trust in our relationship helped in learning, receiving feedback, and growing together. So, we’ve learned a lot from the partnerships, especially with you, it always felt like a horizontal relationship.
Anca: If I look back to our first conversations we had to what the project has grown and matured into, I’m really very impressed. But I would say that, over time, it’s changed and evolved quite a bit. How do you feel you have changed from the moment you applied to today?
Gaby: It changed a lot! To begin with, at the institutional level. When we applied, you chose us even though we did not exist as an organization. Being selected [as a Matchbox partner] was the push we needed to formalize and give structure to the work we wanted to do. From there, we have been building what we want the organization to be. We started from not existing, became institutionalized as an organization, and gained a clearer vision of what we want to do.
On the project side, we were able to break away from committing an error that many organizations make: speaking in general terms about “the citizenry” and “the citizens”; we were able to really get to know our users and beneficiaries much better. This allowed us to create a platform that I believe is much more useful than if we had continued speaking in the generic. It was a fundamental change.
Lourdes: Compared to other forms of support, Matchbox has helped us give our project shape. Plus, making the connection with HURIDOCS in order to use a tool like Uwazi has allowed us to take advantage of a resource that we wouldn’t have necessarily had access to had it not been for the bridge you created. Moreover, during our conversations with our friends at Uwazi, the HURIDOCS team also learned from us and from our needs as a user.
In the case of Matchbox, you put the emphasis on building up the actor and building the institution. So, while the project can change, improve, even make mistakes and course correct, the actor is the key.
Anca: Beyond getting to know you as humans and as professionals, one of my favorite parts of this partnership was learning together. From you all, I learned a lot about the political context in Peru, a complex and delicate one, with a lot of ebbs and flows. But more than that, I learned about how to better support a new organisation, with a team with lot of political experience. What’s one thing that you learned through the MB partnership that you’ll hang onto moving forward?
Lourdes: Firstly, to appreciate the resources we have available. I have learned to value that there are material resources that are, of course, very important, but there are many other resources, like knowledge and capacities, that this project has allowed us to explore and that can allow us to balance out our lack of financial resources. We have to take advantage of the other type of resources we have.
Gaby: In addition to what Lourdes said, I would add that we learned a whole different approach to this work. From the dynamics of the meetings, to how to approach potential partners, to how to see what our role [as a civil society actor] can be and how interact with the actors.
And finally, with respect to interpersonal relationships, to open yourself up to them and be completely open to learn. No one knows everything. You’re entering into a relationship that will allow you to learn and grow in several aspects. That is essential to learn with you [and others], that outlook that – in every context, in every collaboration – you learn to improve.
Anca: Now that you’ve been through it, how would you describe the Matchbox process in your own words?
Gaby: Like an accompaniment of a partner that allows you to grow, to develop outside the box, to learn from each other and to strengthen your team. Always as a partner. It’s not someone who comes and says these are my opinions, this is what’s proven, this is how it has to be, and it evaluates you every so often to see how you did it. No. It’s an ally, a friend, a partner.
Lourdes: It’s support from someone that is not only going to worry about what you want to do and if you do it right or wrong, but [is interested in] who you are, and what you represent. They will teach you to value [what you bring to the table] in order to be able to undertake and fulfill the goals of the project as well as being able to grow as an organization. Like I said before, you approached the project but have helped us grow as a subject, which is more important.
Anca: In the last selection round we received over 60 applications from around the region and They were all very competitive! What advice do you have for an organization getting ready to apply for the 2018 round of partnerships?
Gaby: Be completely honest. About your organization, about yourself, about the idea. Don’t only focus on the project, but also show the knowledge you have around the project as well as the context, because that’s really appreciated.
Lourdes: More than focusing on presenting a wonderful project, very well designed with a precise logical framework, what I think we did well – and the reason why you selected us – is that we showed the conviction in an idea. Actually, I think that when we started the project, we did not have the clarity of exactly it was we wanted to do; that has been built with you. But what we did have was a deep conviction that was rooted in us.
Anca: Once they’re selected, what advice do you have for the new Matchbox partner to get the most out of the experience?
Gaby: First of all, keep an open mind to learn from the process, and to learn from the relationship, mutually with the Matchbox lead.
Translate that commitment and conviction into commitment, fulfillment, and participation in each part of the Matchbox process. Also, be as honest as possible with the limitations that you have to put together a realistic work plan, with milestones and actions to achieve progress.
Lourdes: I totally agree with what Gaby said, I’d maybe try to look at a little of what we [as Japiqay] lacked…
You [in Matchbox] are willing to share A LOT of your knowledge. Make sure to have enough discipline to take advantage of what you have to share and to support us. Sometimes our own institutional weakness made it difficult for us to take in everything. The team has to make the most of the year of partnership in order to learn all that, be orderly and systematic in order to make the most of it.
Anca: The political situation in Peru right now is very complex and unpredictable. Given this context, what is the next step for Japiqay and for Memoria y Ciudadania? What can we expect from you in the future?
Gaby: Japiqay is building and strengthening relationships with other organizations because the monster cannot be faced alone. We are participating in the National Association of Research Centers, Social Promotion and Development. We have our eye on the next municipal electoral process, placing Memory and Citizenship in front of mobilised voters to see who are our candidates and future authorities.
We are carrying out workshops with Legal Defense Institute (IDL) – a Peruvian human rights organisation – within the framework of its Justicia Viva project – which monitors the administration of justice, and they are implementing a project on best practices in judicial transparency, working with 4 jurisdictions in Peru. In this framework there is a part for sharing experiences of these practices. Within that, we present Memory and Citizenship, what the platform is about and how the construction process has been.
We are also participating in more regional spaces, and we try to link with organisations from other countries with topics linked to us (new ideas, new projects). You can find Lourdes and I at AbreLatAm and IODC this September in Buenos Aires!
Anca: How can other organisations best get in touch with you, about potential partnerships, feedback, or just to chat?
Gaby: We’d love to talk to you! You can write us directly to our emails:
email@example.com, or to each one of us: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Or, via social media : Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JapiqayPe/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/Japiqaype. In addition, you can contact us through the Japiqay website and the contact form. We’re always open to receiving feedback about the project or talk about potential collaborations!
Anca: Anything else you’d like to add?
Lourdes: I think of Matchbox as part of a collection of knowledge. It’s important to consider that you are building a community with these allies. We already feel part of this. You will not get rid of us so easily, haha! We’re always available to share our experiences with this growing community, for the new organisations that are selected.
Gaby: The other key component of The Engine Room and Matchbox, is not only the work with the Matchbox team, but also with other people from The Engine Room team and external ones such as Catalina Margozzini, Felipe Alvarez , David Losada, and Kristin Antin and their HURIDOCS team. This community and collaboration makes the support and accompaniment even more valuable.
Anca: Well, thank you both for you time, but beyond that, thanks for your good intentions, your political convictions, your creativity, and your genuine openness to learn and grow. I always say that you reap what you sow. With all the effort, time, and dedication to Japiqay, the first fruits are already blooming. Thanks for everything.
For more on the project that Japiqay implemented with the support of Matchbox, click here to read about the process to create Memoria y Ciudadanía as well as the Peruvian political context it lives in.
Image by Javier Allegue Barros via Unsplash.