written by: Lynda Lohr for the St. Thomas Source

The Foundation for Development Planning , a fledgling non-profit organization on St. Thomas, is providing technical support in the development and planning process to non-profit groups, governments and private institutions so they can improve their decision making and policy-setting process.

The foundation works Caribbean wide to achieve this goal.

The foundation expects to work in areas that include water resources development, climate change, development research, development of decision support tools, development economics, and technical advisory service.

“Our role is to help all the different partners,” foundation president Lloyd Gardner said.

When it comes to non-profit organizations, such groups often spend a lot of money furthering their goals, but Gardner said while those involved may be well meaning, they are often not well informed. Gardner said it’s important that they be informed because in many countries throughout the Caribbean, non-profits like churches and Rotary Clubs provide important social safety nets.

When it comes to government decisions, Gardner said many times the government, the developer and those either for or against the project are basing decisions using different and often faulty information. Many times that information is not based on “reality,” Gardener said.

“When you go to a meeting, there’s lots of disagreement on the impact on a community. The information should not be what you’re disputing,” he said.

Gardner said the foundation will provide a common set of information so that all those involved will make decision based on the same information.

The foundation’s first priority is the development of a digital library so everyone can access the reams of public domain research papers written throughout the Caribbean. Gardner said most of the research is done by government agencies or universities, so the results should be available to the public.

Some material is already available on the Internet, he said.

“But it’s not organized in a way so a simple Internet search will turn it up,” he said.

Once that’s off the ground, the foundation plans to develop a climate-change adaption strategy for the territory, create an environmental handbook for developers, and put together an environmental information management support system for the Virgin Islands.

Funding is an issue. Gardner said the organization sent solicitation letters to more than 40 companies that receive Economic Development Commission tax benefits, but has had no luck.

“Not a single one. Most didn’t respond or said they were not giving out this year,” Gardener said.

So far, the organization’s expenses include items such as office rent, but Gardner said the board members are “self-funding” them.

In addition to Gardner, five others serve on the organization’s board of directors. They are Michael O’Neal, Ilene Heyward-Garner, Noreen Michael, Selena Tapper, and Carlisle Corbin.

Corbin is no stranger to this arena. Among his many hats, he is an international advisor on governance and multilateral diplomacy and serves as the executive secretary of the council of presidents of the United Nations General Assembly. He served Government House as an advisor for external affairs and has served as a United Nations expert on self-determination and governance for more than two decades.

The Jamaica-based Tapper has more than 25 years of experience in development work in the wider Caribbean region. During that time, she held various field and administrative positions responsible for program development and administration, fund management, and capacity development for community, national, and Caribbean regional organizations.

Michael served as an education commissioner under former Gov. Charles Turnbull. She is the chief of staff in the University of the Virgin Islands president’s office and is the organization’s secretary.

The organization’s treasurer, Heyward-Garner, is the director of the UVI’s Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning Center, commonly called CELL. She developed this program at UVI in 2002.

The Tortola-based O’Neal is the vice-president. He is a director of JOMA Ltd., a family-owned real estate management and development company in the British Virgin Islands. He also serves as senior research fellow at Island Resources Foundation.

The St. Thomas-based Gardner is an environmental planner who owns Environmental Support Services LLC.

Original article published in the St. Thomas Source