Global Communities – A History

The story of Global Communities is the story of a changing world.

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history timeline photo

1952—Global Communities began in 1952 as the Foundation for Cooperative Housing, a US organization that helped build houses for people in need, based on the cooperative model. From its inception, FCH focused on working with communities to meet their needs, and over three decades built 60,000 houses in 35 states of the United States.

1960s and 70s—In 1962 something radical happened. The US government, impressed by the organization (now CHF, the Cooperative Housing Foundation) asked CHF to begin working in Central America, exporting our successful model of housing to partner countries. As we had done in the United States, we continued to work with communities and focused on housing. Through the 1970s, we shrank our domestic output and focused more internationally.

1980s—The 80s brought about more radical change: during this decade, CHF shifted entirely to working internationally. As we did so, we began to move away from housing as our main focus and started addressing community needs more broadly in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. CHF also became a pioneer in housing microfinance at this time.

1990s—The 90s began with the world changing irrevocably with the end of the Cold War. CHF once again responded to these changes. We began working in Eastern Europe, still strongly focused on housing. We also started working in the Middle East, developing microfinance programs for entrepreneurs and home-owners that are still in existence today.

We began to develop our participatory approach to conflict resolution, peace-building and community cohesion in Guatemala in 1996,  and then in the Balkans, an approach at the core of work today which we call Participatory Action for Community Enhancement. After Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in 1998, we developed our world-leading standing in shelter solutions. Many of our people who began working with us in their home countries at this time are still with us today. With decades of experience of working closely with communities around the globe, they are among our top leaders around the world.

2000s—With the 2000s came more change, with conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia, displaced persons crises in Colombia and Darfur, a huge focus on combating HIV and AIDS across the developing world, and with a massive population shift toward urban areas. As CHF International, we responded to all of these changes in the world, working to empower communities faced with tremendous challenges, and developing expertise in all of these areas, always underpinned by our community-based, partnership approach.

Today—More than 60 years since the creation of our organization, we recognize that the world always changes and always will. Africa is economically among the fastest growing regions in the world, and emerging economies are new powers. At the center of our work are these global communities that are shaping the future of the world. Acknowledging the changes in the world, the global nature of our organization, and cognizant of our role in empowering the vulnerable to be leaders of their own development as we have done since 1952, today we are Global Communities, Partners for Good.