The Inter-American Foundation (IAF), in conjunction with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), welcomes applicants for its new Research Fellowship Program to advance rigorous field-based research on actionable questions about community-led development in Latin America and the Caribbean.*

  • Community-led” refers to approaches in which community members propose, lead, manage, and invest in their own development efforts through local civil society organizations and grassroots organizations, including youth associations, producer cooperatives, community foundations, faith-based organizations, and countless others thriving throughout the region.
  • Development” includes the spectrum of efforts that affect the well-being of community members, such as the opportunities to live up to their potential, pursue their civic rights, make their communities safer, and protect their natural environment. 
  • Actionable questions” should provide insights that inspire decisions by a community-led organization, the IAF, and/or other donors and supporters of community-led development.
  • “Rigorous field-based research” should reflect standards and best practices that ensure robust and unbiased results.

The IAF will award up to ten Fellowships in 2025. Each of the ten fellowships includes a stipend of $20,000 to support an individual researcher working over the course of twelve months in one or more of the countries in the region where the IAF works (see IAF.gov/Where we work), participation in a three-day in-person orientation workshop, and engagement with the network of IAF Fellows.

Applications are due on December 3, 2024. Apply online here.

Research Topics

The IAF wants to understand whether and how community-led models have brought tangible impacts to their communities over time, and how communities are responding to global trends at a local level. We are especially interested in community-led efforts that strive to promote:

  • the generation of economic and other opportunities, particularly for women and youth,
  • effective ways to address the drivers of irregular migration and/or strengthen rootedness and resilience among vulnerable populations,
  • integration of migrants and other displaced populations,
  • responses to chronic violence (including gender-based violence), 
  • social cohesion,
  • social inclusion (including of Afro-descendants, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized groups),
  • sustainable agriculture,
  • disaster resilience, 
  • community philanthropy, and
  • other development issues in which communities are vested.

The IAF welcomes research proposals that speak to the above development topics using one of the following frames:

1. Community-led responses that reflect impact, scale, and sustainability

We are interested in understanding whether, how, and to what extent community-led models have expanded opportunities for their communities or made a lasting impact at scale.  Consider questions such as what makes some models more effective and/or sustainable than others? Or what are the obstacles that prevent community-led models or organizations from achieving a sustainable impact at scale?

2. Tenets of community-led development

We welcome research that tests some fundamental assumptions about the ability of community-led efforts to transform local realities. Consider, for instance, to what extent, and under what conditions, have local organizations promoted social capital, engendered greater social mobility, or inspired policy changes or improved policy implementation? Or when has donor-funded community-led development been particularly effective compared to other models of development assistance?

3. Local responses to global trends

We would like to learn more about the solutions communities have developed to respond to the local implications of global trends affecting the world we live in. For instance, how have communities been responding to irregular migration, climate-related shocks and stress, dwindling natural resources and biodiversity, chronic violence, new technologies, or reduced spaces for civic engagement, including in urban spaces? Or how have they been taking advantage of new tools and innovations such as the popularization of new media technologies, AI, REDD+, carbon credits, blended finance and impact investments?  What new partnerships or approaches are being developed?

Fellowship Requirements

IAF Research Fellows will be required to:

  • Prepare and submit to the SSRC a Fellowship Report of 1,250 to 2,500 words, within six months of the expiration of the Fellowship Period, that clearly describes the research question, methods, findings, limitation, and implications for practice and/or policy.
  • Develop at least one short, well-crafted, publishable note or other communications piece for the IAF covering key findings and recommendations for local organizations and funders.
  • Collaborate with at least one community-based organization in carrying out the field research.
  • Participate in a three-day in-person Orientation to better understand the IAF, network with IAF staff and other Fellows, and review Fellowship expectations.
  • Participate in IAF-hosted platforms, such as social media and events.
  • As required by the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, Fellows conducting research in a country named in the act would need to clear a country narcotics check and certify compliance with anti-narcotics provisions.**


We welcome all researchers who have the expertise, skills, and creativity to answer the questions above, and who have the availability to do so within the twelve-month period of the Fellowship.  Applicants must be a citizen of one of the countries in which the IAF works or the United States and must have at least a Bachelor’s Degree. Beyond these requirements, we are casting a wide net: Applicants may be enrolled in a graduate program or they may have completed their education; they may be working within academia as teachers or researchers; they may be working in partnership with community-based organizations; they may be part of an institution; or they may work independently. What matters most is that applicants can demonstrate that they can effectively answer our questions.

Selection Criteria

A multidisciplinary review committee, convened by the IAF and including IAF staff, will evaluate proposals based on relevance, quality, intellectual merit, the fit between research question and research design, feasibility, and the practical implications of the proposed research to the IAF, community organizations, policymakers, and/or funders.

To Apply

Applicants can apply in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French, and should write in clear, intelligible prose for a selection committee that is multidisciplinary and cross-regional. Please use Times New Roman font, 12-pt., and 1-inch margins. The application consists of:

  • A standard online application form.
  • A research abstract (250 words max) that summarizes your proposed research.
  • An actionable research statement (250 words max) that describes how your findings may inform decisions by a community-led organization, the IAF, and/or other donors and supporters of community-led development.
  • A personal statement (500 words max) that explains (a) what is motivating or inspiring you to pursue this research project on community-led development, and (b) how the proposed research will contribute to your understanding of the topic at hand.
  • A research proposal (5 pages max) that includes:
    • Relevance. Clearly articulate the research question you will answer through this Fellowship and how it advances one of IAF’s Research Topics above.
    • Contribution. Describe the practical implications of the proposed research. In other words, how do you expect your research findings may be useful to community-led organizations, donors, and/or other stakeholders?
    • Methods. Describe the methods you will use for field research, the type of data you will collect, how you will analyze these data, and steps you will take to ensure that the data and analysis are reliable. The IAF is open to a range of approaches and research designs including quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods; single-site, single-country, or comparative approaches. Explain why you have chosen the proposed approach for the given question.
    • Work to date. If available, a brief description of any related research work done to date, noting any preliminary analysis informing the proposed research.
  • A selected bibliography (2 pages max) relevant to the proposed research. You may use whichever standardized citation style (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago) you prefer.

    *The IAF works in the following countries in the Caribbean: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago.

    **The list of covered countries for this provision of the Foreign Assistance Act is submitted to the U.S. Congress by September 15 of the preceding fiscal year. For FY2024, these countries include Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. This list is subject to change from one fiscal year to the next.

    SSRC Staff administering this Fellowship

    Elsa Ransom
    Deputy Director

    Tara Shukla
    Program Associate