The Mario Santo Domingo Foundation (FMSD) is a non-profit organization created in 1953 in Barranquilla, Colombia, by Mario Santo Domingo, father of Julio Mario Santo Domingo, a Colombian visionary and entrepreneur. Although initially its focus was Barranquilla and the Atlantic region in Colombia, it then expanded its scope reaching Bogotá and Cartagena, where it now has branches. It has also supported a series of initiatives in other regions of Colombia and the world at large. During its early years (60s and 70s), the FMSD promoted technological and technical education in the country through donations, kicked off its micro finance operation, and was one of the main founders of the Universidad del Norte.
In its next stage, the FMSD promoted the Carnaval de Barranquilla Foundation, created the Santo Domingo Arts and Skills School in Bogota’s historic center, and carried out a series of education and health projects, including establishing the first hospital on the Barú islands. Recently, it launched the Primero lo Primero alliance, which focuses on early childhood development, supported the reconstruction and construction of more than 10.000 houses in the city of Barranquilla and the Atlantic region for families affected by the 2010-12 floods, and since 2007 has been coordinating 2 of the largest housing projects (macro projects) in the cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena to address the main bottleneck of poverty reduction in Colombia.
In the above-mentioned housing projects the FMSD implements its own model of intervention known as Integrated Development for Sustainable Communities (DINCS is its Spanish Acronym). Its aim is to empower the community via community participation in management of the project, encourage good governance, provide social coaching or capacity building for the community, and develop an exit strategy for the FMSD. Profits associated with the construction of the houses are channeled through a social fund, which the community can access for its own projects and to ensure the sustainability of current initiatives.
Together with the Social Investment Bank (BIS) and other Colombian partners, the FMSD promotes innovative mechanisms for collective impact. During the last years it developed a financial instrument that allows low-income families access to a new house without needing a down payment and with monthly payments not higher than their current rent costs. The so-called Arriendo con Opción de Compra (ACOC) has been recently embraced by the Colombian government, as a sustainable and market based mechanism to tackle its housing deficit.