West Africa and Decentralization

What is decentralization?  “The dispersion or distribution of functions and powers; specifically :  the delegation of power from a central authority to regional and local authorities.”

How does it happen in West Africa? Who gets the money and why?  Decentralization generally refers to the transfer of certain responsibilities away from the central level to the local level governance.  The top-down approach inherited from the francophone era is slowly being replaced with the bottom-up community driven method.  The process of decentralization varies greatly region by region.  The strength and weaknesses of a country’s political, environmental, social, economical, and fiscal government determines the smoothness of this transition.  “… effective decentralization, whether it is to administrative or political local actors, is about creating a realm of local autonomy defined by inclusive local processes and local authorities empowered with decisions and resources that are meaningful to local people.”

Decentralization and empowerment of local government, overcoming fiscal challenges, poverty, gender inequality and the difference in social values slows progress toward deconstruction and decentralization.  There are 16 countries that form West Africa that were  part of the original colonization under the Great Britain and France. They are Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Benin, the Island of Cape Verde, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

West Africa’s local government will not easily receive the fund that it needs because like in many other developing countries,eradicating poverty and hunger is not the first priority. Usually, politics wins first, even if everyone knows the battle to stay alive starts with feeding the hungry.

The French speaking region of West Africa has gone through several attempts at decentralization–“after both World Wars, shortly after independence.”  Currently, Guinea, Burkina-Faso and Togo are experiencing the growing pains of decentralization and overcoming its many challenges. “Deconcentration can be a tool to establish central power in outlying areas.  In Francophone West Africa, Mbassi (1995:23-4) pointed out that due to the weakness of the state, governments recommended that decentralizations include deconcentration of services—in order to maintain a central presence in the local arena.”

Language, religion, and diversity of social values plays an important role both in unifying resources as well as creating strife and instability.  The process of decentralization has not been easy nor complete.  Perhaps lack of transparency is an important barrier as is the case in many other regions.  But, so is the climate and possibility of the change in currency that will create more challenges, and hopefully positive ones for the region.

In addition, six of Western African countries (Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and Cabo Verde) have formed the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) to create a new currency to compete with the French Franc. “Mr Kalilou Traore, ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion, has said that the commission is committed to implementing a single currency in West Africa by 2020.”  Mr. Traore believes that the “… frameworks for formulating regional automotive, pharmaceutical and agriculture industry programmes are part of processes toward achieving success of the common currency.”

In that last two decades, Africa and most other developing countries have been moving toward a more local governance.  However, funding the local government is the main challenge.  Various forms of tax collection have shown that this collection is not a long-term solution, and nor the most reliable.  There are many issues with the proper method of tax collection, especially with the property tax.  “Three major problems are usually emphasized concerning property tax in developing countries—valuation, assessment, and collection (Proud’homme 1989).  All three problems are compounded by the fact that land titles and cadastres are poorly developed in most of these societies. The idea that land is government or communally owned has only aggravated the problem.”

The collection of property tax is of the most important source of funding for the local government.  “The development of this tax contributes to the program of poverty alleviation in three critical ways.  First, it will make possible the diversion of more central government grants to the development of rural areas away from urban areas where the property tax will be primarily instituted (as is currently the case in South Africa). Second, the successful introduction of the tax will lead to greater progressivity of the tax systems in these countries, thus relieving the poor of the unfair heavy burden they bear presently of financing the development of their countries. Third, it will help transform much ‘dead’ capital—urban land—into ‘ living’ capital, to use Hernando de Soto’s (2002) terminology. These issues should constitute the cutting edge of an urban research agenda in West Africa in the coming years.”

The local committees govern many areas of education, trade regulation, health, people resources, land and property management, legal, policy and much more.  The local jails for petty crimes are also part of this local authority.  “As for the budget, local councils get their resources from a range of local taxes, fees for municipal services, dues for the exploitation of national patrimony, and, after independence, from state grants.”

There seems to be no long term permanent solution to the present road map to the West Africa decentralization process.   The transfer of power from central to local level requires knowledge of availability of not just money, but also the manpower resources.  Who and what sector of the local government can handle the transfer of responsibility?  And, will there be a long term source of fund to accomplish its goals?  The success of central transition to local governance will need both.

Read more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/12/ecowas-to-implement-common-currency-in-west-africa-official/

Read more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/12/ecowas-to-implement-common-currency-in-west-africa-official/

Read more at: http://www.unrisd.org/80256B3C005BCCF9/(httpAuxPages)/3345AC67E6875754C1256D12003E6C95/$file/ribot.pdf

Read more at: http://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Policy-Documents/-Rev%203%20-%20Decentralization%20Roadmap-.pdf

Image courtesy of the African Development Programme.  http://adpgh.org/3rd-quarter-grassroots-engagements-on-public-financial-management-processes-in-ga-west/




African Fiscal Decentralization: A Means to Local Governance

A common problem of local community-led development efforts is that local communities sometimes lack the proper resources to accomplish their goals. Additionally, when central governments control the budgets of local governments, money disbursement can become unfair and untimely. This is where we begin to question the best methods of funding local community efforts, and this is where we turn to fiscal decentralization as a step in the direction of local governance.

Though a complicated task, the idea of decentralization is straightforward: it is the process of moving money from the central government into the hands of those in local government. The World Bank defines several different forms of fiscal decentralization, including local governments self-financing through taxes and other forms of revenue expansion as well as municipal borrowing between the central and local governments. Regardless of a country’s level of decentralization, central or local government may be better equipped to handle certain responsibilities. For example, the military should remain centralized because of its size and cost to the government, but education can generally be managed better in the hands of the local government.

The biggest questions of fiscal decentralization arise from where countries are in the midst of decentralizing. What approaches are countries taking to implement decentralization ? Why is there so little data on how much money actually goes to the local governments?

In 2014, the African Union adopted the “African Charter on the Values of Decentralization, Local Governance, and Local Development”, outlining what decentralized governments in Africa should look like. Concerning governance, the charter specifies several guidelines:

  • Local governments should have the autonomy to create their own laws and regulations, as well as the authority to enforce them
  • Transparency and cooperation must exist between the central and local governments
  • The money, whether disbursed from the central government or raised by the local government, must be used most efficiently for the people
  • Equal participation should be promoted for women, youth, disabled, and any marginalized groups in decision making.

The charter is thorough and relevant to many different decentralization models, but fails to set a standard of what percentage of central government budgets should be transferred to local governments. In other words, it provides a framework but does not deliver methods of application. Not only is there a lack of common methodology between African Union members, but we also lack accurate data that represents the percentage of central government spending going towards decentralization.

Though the charter promotes transparency between levels of government and the annual collection of decentralization data, we tend to only find helpful, but vague, data from international organizations rather than from the member nations themselves.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a working paper on “Measuring Fiscal Decentralization”in 2011 summarizing trends and measurement indicators of decentralization including revenue, fiscal burden, and expenditure. From the paper we learn that decentralization trends positively with “country size, income per capita, ethnic fractionalization, and level of democracy”, making countries like Sweden, Canada, and the United States some of the most decentralized at around 30% of central dollars going directly to local governments. We are able to see trends across time and find that once a country has committed to and implemented decentralization policy, the percentage of the budget that goes to the local governments stay fairly stable over time.

Below are examples of countries both of high and low decentralization status that have remained constant over time. The percentages listed represent the amount of the total budget of each country that was transferred to local government in 1995 and 2008.

1995 2008









Israel 11% *data  from year 2000


Most data sources we have on this issue tend to only report on the last 20 years. The measurements of decentralization are not standardized and not regularly collected by institutions like the African Union. The main barrier of measuring decentralization comes from using a difficult metric; in general, we use the ratio of spending at the local level compared to the spending at the central level to measure a country’s decentralization status. Tracking and reporting local level spending can be difficult in certain areas, which makes this metric inconvenient.

“A decentralization process with local governments relying on their own resources should be more efficient than a decentralization based on transfers”

Though the data is scarce on how much money local governments receive from their central governments, we can extrapolate the data we do have to similar areas to get a sense of where the world is with decentralization. We know that the developing world is still quite highly centralized and has a lot of work to do. Before being able to really tackle fiscal decentralization, governments must be have a sound revenue system, a measurement plan in place, and transparency between the local and central government decision makers. The more we see local people having an influence over their own budgets, the more we will see communities leading their own development.


View the African Union’s 2014 charter on decentralization here

View the IMF’s working paper here.  

Feature image courtesy of africanews.com.



By Sreya Panuganti

With the Sustainable Development Goals nearing their one-year anniversary, the global community continues to strive toward eradicating poverty by 2030. In order to achieve this ambitious target, many international development practitioners are embracing a more holistic approach to development, combining traditionally single-sector programming, like health or environment work, into more comprehensive efforts. But such integrated development is sometimes easier said than done.

Locus, a coalition of 12 government and non-government development organizations, was launched in 2013 in part to build consensus around what integrated development actually entails and how to design and finance it. “We recognized, as organizations, that we needed better data, and data on a variety of questions,” said Nanette Barkey, a member of Locus and director of results and measurements at the NGO Pact. “But we didn’t really know what those questions were.”

Over the last three years, Locus members have identified knowledge gaps, questions they wanted answered, and finally, after a number of iterations, compiled the results in a new Prioritized Research Agenda for Integrated Development.

Speaking at the Wilson Center on August 30, Barkey was joined by three colleagues from organizations also working on integrated development to discuss the research agenda and successes and challenges in an emerging field.


Shae Thot, or “The Way Forward,” is a community development project funded by the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, and is implemented by Pact in more than 2,700 communities across Myanmar. In collaboration with local partners, Pact provides resources and technical assistance to enhance community-based knowledge systems and implement local development goals. Barkey described the project as one of Pact’s “most integrated” with interventions targeting livelihoods, food security, nutrition, health, and water and sanitation.

“The key thing for Shae Thot,” explained Barkey, “is that we work through local organizations that are representative of the citizens.” For instance, the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) work of Shae Thot is done primarily through Village Development Committees – democratically elected bodies independent from village authorities – which encourages inclusive and participatory decision-making, she said, and builds capacity that will endure after the project ends.

Working so closely with local civil society makes it impossible to ignore that these communities have many needs, Barkey said. “They don’t just need health; they don’t just need education or WASH, or resilience to climate change. Development isn’t happening in just one sector.” Shae Thot trains thousands of community health workers in child health and nutrition; provides access to family planning services and mobile health clinics; and facilitates hygiene training and improved access to potable water.

There are a number of positive side effects resulting from such a multi-dimensional approach. One of the significant outcomes Pact hopes to achieve is improvements in education. “As children are spending less time collecting water, and as people’s households are earning more money,” Barkey said, “we believe that more children will be going back to school.” Children whose families don’t rely on their labor are able to attain higher levels of education which should, in turn, translate into higher earning potential for households. And healthier children and adults are able to be more productive in school or at work.

Quantifying cross-over benefits is critical to proving the efficacy of integration. When Pact asked a third-party evaluator to measure how well indicators were integrated in a 2015 mid-term evaluation, “they just couldn’t do it,” Barkey said. Although the evaluators found a number of instances reflecting the integrated nature of Shae Thot, such as the “one team approach” employed by field partners to help deliver services efficiently, the original baseline indicators were not designed with integration in mind. This made efforts to measure the effect of integration difficult. Barkey noted that USAID has extended Shae Thot by two years to 2018, allowing Pact to develop indicators on program integration and conduct a baseline assessment on the process of integration itself.


Jayce Newton, the lead for integration at USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Rights, and Governance (DRG), stressed the need to emphasize the benefits of integration. “I don’t think integration is important,” he said, “I think it’s much more vital than that.”

“We recognize that we need more impact, that we need more cost effectiveness, [and] more results for the money we’re spending,” said Newton. USAID program officers often have to balance a number of different priorities and projects at any given moment. Better integration allows them to draw on the support and expertise of other officers from other sectors, he said, thereby optimizing the results of their respective programs.

DRG conducted extensive surveys of six missions – Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Indonesia, Nepal, and Guatemala – to identify how integration was occurring and the challenges program officers faced in integrated programming. One of the main obstacles they found was earmarked funds. “If you want to have integrated programming at USAID, you’re looking at what we call ‘different flavors of money,’” said Newton. For example, “if you want to combine economic development money with PEPFAR money, that’s not easy.”

Constructing holistic projects that combine various flows of single-sector funding is a formidable challenge. “Those silos are not going to get busted,” said Newton, “they’re there for a reason.” He suggested instead to “make the silos a little more permeable.” If development practitioners can “let knowledge and information and data pass more easily through them, it won’t really matter whether [sectors] are siloed or not.” Transparent, accurate, easily accessible data can help program officers make the case to their leadership that integration will lead to more effective programming. “If we have leadership onboard, if they understand what integration can do, that will unlock all these doors to collaboration and learning,” he said.

Jim Tarrant, chief of party of Development Alternatives Inc.’s Biodiversity Results and Integrated Development Gains Enhanced, or BRIDGE project, agrees. “To achieve that synergy, the key is transparency and governance – and integration can help facilitate both of these things.”

BRIDGE is a five-year program funded by USAID to integrate biodiversity conservation into different development initiatives across the globe, including climate change adaptation and mitigation, democracy and governance, food security, health, and trade.

One of the key challenges BRIDGE faces is in understanding “where the other sectors are mentally,” Tarrant said. Every sector comes with its own biases, its own language, and its own framework of knowledge. BRIDGE is working with specialists from the USAID Forestry and Biodiversity Office, Smithsonian Institution, Conservation International, and Relief International to develop project case studies, evidence briefs, and technical reports to help practitioners understand how conservation can help communities adapt to climate change and is linked to other development outcomes, such as improved governance and food security.


Integration itself is difficult to define, said Salman Jaffer, program director at Social Impact, a consulting firm providing organizational management services to social change projects, encompassing a wide array of fields. But according to Jaffer, integration is not only about what results development organizations achieve, but how they do it.

“We have to be mirrors of integration,” Jaffer urged. “We have to seek ways in which we can be more matrixed as an organization.” Social Impact thinks through what type of structure, processes, culture, and personnel training are required to enable organizations like USAID to meet their objectives, he said.

“We have to seek ways in which we can be more matrixed as an organization” The USAID-funded and Social Impact-run Global Health Professional and Organizational Development program helps USAID and USAID partners to build capacity in project and program design, management, strategic planning, and partnerships. Describing their approach as a “microcosm of integration,” Jaffer explained that they urge clients to take a multidisciplinary perspective, and many do, “looking at nutrition, education, social support, and health.”

Integration is about intentionally aligning seemingly disparate sectors to address community-level problems that are often multidimensional, said Jaffer. “The reality is a lot of us work in siloed environments – so how do we bring all that together to drive integration?”

Barkey suggested this is precisely the goal of Locus. “The job, really, of the research agenda and the working group specifically is to consolidate and to bring together all of this knowledge,” she said. “We want to be collaborative. We want to be advocates for the research… Anyone really can take this research agenda and run with it.”

The Locus research agenda suggests a number of key questions that will strengthen the case for funding and support if answered. These include helping to identify the costs and benefits of integration versus traditional development programming, identifying the differences in how integration is viewed by local communities versus policymakers, and determining if outcomes from integrated development efforts last longer than those from vertical efforts.

The hope is that by helping to focus such a diverse community on these central questions, Locus can create a feedback loop “where best practices for integrated development are translated into future investments, policies, and programs,” according to the agenda.

“We need to find a way to do development differently,” Newton said. “I think integration will allow us to do development differently, will create new types of programming that will be more effective and that will be more impactful.”

Putting People First at #UNGA

September 22, 2016 – New York City, NY: “Putting People First: Community-led Development” featured leaders from the UN and Civil Civil Society describing the growing momentum for community-led development as the best pathway to achieving the integrated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was hosted by The Movement for Community-led Development during the week of the United Nations General Assembly.

[youtube https://youtu.be/krHijkbL74o]

The focus of this panel and interactive discussion was to share the progress being made in the global expansion of community-led development. The large-scale initiatives to expand it were discussed, and the panelists shared their experiences to empower attendees to champion their own efforts in community-led development.

[youtube https://youtu.be/HfBOZHMv9uU]
Above: A short video by Catholic Relief Services on empowering communities to prepare for disaster response.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fF80i4tlclA]
Above: The full panel discussion. Links to each speaker’s first and second statements are listed under their bios.


asa-skogstrom_051c_f-1-169x240Åsa Skogström Feldt, President and CEO, The Hunger Project

Åsa joined the Global Office in New York as President and CEO of The Hunger Project in September 2014. As Country Director of The Hunger Project in Sweden from 2004-2012, Åsa succeeded in growing the organization and significantly increasing revenue and public awareness, particularly through partnerships with entrepreneurs and businesses.

She also has experience founding and building networks of women leaders both in Sweden and internationally. At IKEA, which she joined in 2012, Åsa established a new initiative through which IKEA supports social enterprises that are within their value chains through business partnerships. Prior to this, she has a strong background in international communications and marketing.


Jennifer Poidatz

Jennifer Poidatz, VP for Humanitarian Response, Catholic Relief Services

Leading a global team of over 35 emergency technical advisors and response managers, Jennifer ensures timely support to CRS country programs and local partners responding to relief and recovery needs of disaster affected populations. Capacity building for CRS staff and partners in emergency preparedness and response is also a priority for Jennifer and her team. She has served as a Peace Corps volunteer, a research assistant with the United Nations University Food and Nutrition Program, and as a Country Representative in many different countries for CRS, including Burundi, Angola, Sri Lanka, India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, also making great contributions in Ghana, Rwanda, Haiti, and Syria. The majority of her work with CRS has centered around emergency response and development.

See Jennifer’s first response here.

See Jennifer’s second response here.

boarddirectors_amycoughenourbetancourtAmy Coughenour, President and Chief Operating Officer, NCBA/CLUSA

Amy has developed and led NGOs for 23 years in domestic and international development. Prior to joining NCBA CLUSA, Mrs. Coughenour Betancourt served for nine years as the Deputy Director of the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), and as the Deputy Director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) from 1999-2002, and as a CSIS Adjunct Fellow from 2002-2010. From 1994-1999, she was Director of the Washington office of the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD). She serves on the boards of the Overseas Cooperative Development Council and International Cooperative Alliance-Americas Region. Coughenour holds an M.A. in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

See Amy’s first response here.

See Amy’s second response here.


Saket Mani, (@SaketMANI), Children & Youth Representative, Global Youth Advocate, United Nations

Saket is a global youth activist, community mobilizer & campaign strategist. He is focused on driving advocacy & policy on sustainability, youth & human rights, and gender justice. Saket uses his interpersonal skills and experience around collective action to engage citizens, from grassroots to government. Mindful of the need for inclusive campaigning & advocacy, Saket’s outreach encompasses change makers stemming from rural, semi urban, and urban areas. A committed champion for gender rights, Saket currently serves as the Youth Planet 50/50 Champion for Gender Equality to support UN Women’s work on gender equality and women’s empowerment through the Office of the UN Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director for UN Women. Highlighting the power of volunteerism through cycling rallies, musical performances, advocacy workshops and other creative offline & online tools, Saket mobilized 121,000+ people to commit & pledge support for ‘HeForShe’, the UN Women’s Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality and ‘Planet 50-50 – Step It Up for Gender Equality’. In addition to his work on gender rights, Saket is a passionate advocate for citizen engagement and serves as a Global Youth Advocate for the UN Secretary General’s My World 2015 Global Citizen Survey, which mobilized close to 7 million youth, focusing on youth perspectives in developing the Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs). 

See Saket’s first response here.

See Saket’s second response here.

noraNora O’Connell, Associate Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy, Save The Children

Nora is responsible for leading Save The Children’s advocacy work concerning international development issues, including child survival, aid effectiveness, and ensuring the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals. She has worked on projects with UNGA, Camp David G8, and Child Survival Call to Action.

Her experience prior to Save The Children includes serving as the Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs for Women Thrive, as a campaign manager for Senator Pingree, and running the Women and the Economy program for the Center for Policy Alternatives to push a progressive policy agenda. She has been a spokesperson for various issues, including child welfare, at the local and national levels. She is a University of California at Berkeley graduate and now lives in DC.

See Nora’s first response here.

See Nora’s second response here.

simona marinescu

Simona Marinescu, Title Director, Development Impact Group, United National Development Programme 

Simona has been working with UNDP measuring development impact globally and ensuring high performance of UNDP around the world for more empowered people and resilient nations.  She was the Director of Istanbul Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPD), UNDP from 2012-2014.  In partnership with the private sector globally, business models were designed and contributed to green growth and sustainable human development.  IICPSD is the UNDP global center for growing inclusive markets that creates economic opportunities through innovative business solutions.  Simona was the Senior Economist, Programme Director for Economic Reforms where she managed a multi-UN agency, USD 33 million program portfolio for economic diversification in Iraq, including corporatization of SOEs, SME development, investment mapping and promotion for non-oil FDI, land management, taxation and social dialog. She has also worked with USAID and the World Bank in economic governance and social protection. Simona holds an MBA in International Relations and a PhD inEconomics from the Academy of Economic Studies ASE Bucharest, a diploma in Leadership from Harvard University and a certificate in Modern Labor Market Administration from Cyprus International Institute of Management.

See Simona’s first response here.

See Simona’s second response here.

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Although it comes with challenges, integration is essential to international development and holds vast potential for achieving more sustainable results, a panel of experts agreed during a wide-ranging discussion on integrated programming.

The Aug. 30 event, held in Washington D.C., was organized by the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and Locus, a coalition of international development organizations that seeks to change the way the sector funds and implements its work. Speakers included representatives from Pact, Social Impact, USAID and Development Alternatives Inc.

The discussion, entitled “Building a Case for Integrated Development: Identifying and Answering Key Research Questions,” focused on integrated development, a model that moves away from siloed programming and instead intentionally combines interventions in areas such as health, economic development, education, governance and the environment. Integrated development is thought to create synergies, with results that equal more than the sum of its parts.

The panelists agreed that integration is not just important but indispensable as governments, donors and implementers seek to improve their efforts. And while organizations still largely operate in silos, integrated programming is already in wide use, they observed.

But the panelists also said integration isn’t an end; rather, it’s a means for carrying out development that truly works, and there are different definitions of “works.” Does integrated development, for example, reach more beneficiaries? Does it help do more for those who are the most vulnerable? Do communities report greater satisfaction when programs are integrated? Do they report better quality of life?

“Do we still need to build a case” for integrated development? asked the panel’s moderator, Roger-Mark De Souza, director of population, environmental security and resilience at the Wilson Center.

Because so many questions remain unanswered, De Souza answered, “Yes, we do.”

Nanette Barkey, director of results and measurement at Pact and a member of Locus’s Research Working Group, discussed a new research agenda compiled by the coalition. After examining research by Locus member organizations and conducting surveys of development stakeholders and subject matter experts, the group identified four priority questions related to integrated development:

  • What criteria should determine when integration is the most appropriate approach?
  • What are the costs of integration versus vertical programming?
  • How is integration viewed by local communities and stakeholders?
  • Do the effects of integrated development tend to last longer than those of vertical programming?

The point of the agenda is not to outline questions Locus plans to answer on its own, Barkey said. Instead the coalition hopes others, including implementers, funders and academics will “take this research agenda and run with it.”

“We want to be collaborative,” Barkey said. “We want to be advocates for the research.”

She discussed a USAID-funded Pact project in Myanmar, Shae Thot, that is highly integrated and collecting data to help answer outstanding questions. “We’re intentionally generating information that can be part of this,” Barkey said.

She noted that although Shae Thot does not include an education component – it includes interventions in health, livelihoods and governance among others – Pact believes the program will increase school attendance as children become healthier and parents’ incomes rise.

Jayce Newton, integration lead at USAID’s Center for Democracy, Rights and Governance, or DRG, said data and on-the-ground experience are what led his agency to integration.

“We need more results for the money we’re spending,” Newton said. “For us, integration is vital to the health of all the work we do.”

He said DRG work is perhaps the most critical piece.

“DRG is not just something that is important to integrate,” Newton said. “We really think it’s the key ingredient to help other sectors integrate. We believe DRG is catalytic – something that can be the glue that allows, say, health and education to link together.”

Newton also took on another question that De Souza posed to the panel about the meaning of sustainability.

Newton gave this definition: “These gains that we make through our investments stay after we leave.”

He added that he believes integration and governance considerations are crucial to unlocking sustainability.

Newton said a key next step will be for organizations to better operationalize integration by making it easier for staff to collaborate across silos, share knowledge and combine different “flavors” of money.

He said silos are needed for organization, but they must become far more permeable.

Jim Tarrant, chief of party for the BRIDGE project at Development Alternatives Inc., said development must be integrated because households are integrated, and because development challenges are, too. Environmental problems such as habitat and water loss, for example, directly affect people’s health and food security.

In an era of climate change and fragile states, Tarrant said, “the world can’t afford to have single-sector projects that do not achieve synergy and do not achieve multiple objectives. We don’t have the time for that anymore.”

Tarrant said that if integrated development costs more in time and money upfront, that must be weighed against the opportunity cost of not doing integration.

“You have to look at the alternatives,” he said. “Because those cost even more in terms of lost opportunities or actual failures.”

Still, he said, there is a risk in over-integrating, which leads to projects that are “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Tarrant called on large implementing organizations that can afford it to build learning and research on integration into their programs, even when donors don’t fund it.

“It’s for their own benefit,” he said.

Salman Jaffer, program director at Social Impact, echoed Newton’s advice that organizations should make operational adjustments to better accommodate integration.

“We have to be mirrors of integration ourselves,” Jaffer said.

He said sectors should come together around the one desired outcome they all share: alleviating vulnerability. He said that outcome – along with quality of life – can serve as a great basis for measuring the impact of integrated programming.

Both quantitative and qualitative measures are important when it comes to integration, Jaffer said, and measurement should begin earlier in project lifespans to “take the pulse of integration along the way.”

In defining integration, Jaffer said, he sees intentionality and sustainability as critical pieces.

“I really believe that development itself is in its infancy,” he said. “We’re undoing some of the silos and the linear thinking – ‘it’s just my program and me’ – to thinking about ‘it’s us.’ It’s about a more complex world, and we need more complex solutions. We’re slowly becoming more diverse in our thinking.”

A video recording of the discussion is available here.

Photo credit: Schuyler Null/Wilson Center