Proposed Budget Cuts: Community-led Development at Risk

President Donald Trump released his first formal proposed budget to Congress on 16 March 2017. As promised, the “America First” budget is proposing $54 billion in cuts throughout different federal government agencies and programs to offset the increase to the defense budget. Here is a snapshot of some departments that will be experiencing budget cuts:

Picture Source: CNN Politics President Donald Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts

President Trump wants to reduce foreign aid, and has reflected this by proposing a 31.4% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a 28.7% cut to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). If Congress approves this budget, it would cut funding for international development programs and the World Bank. It would also remove funding from programs aimed at combating climate change, therefore, culminating U.S. support to the United Nations’ climate change programs.

These budget proposals will have a direct impact on the movement for Community-led Development (CLD). Independent agencies, such as the U.S. African Development Foundation, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the United States Institute of Peace have been suggested for elimination. These agencies provide economic support, childhood development, education and food security, amongst other development services to communities throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The CDL programs rely on the financial support of USAID, the State Department and numerous independent agencies to support their missions. It is imperative that Congress does not allow this blueprint to pass because of the negative repercussions it will have on U.S. foreign policy priorities and international development goals, which have been the frontrunner for women’s rights.

Community-led development begins and ends with the empowerment of women. This budget proposal would jeopardize years of progression that development programs have been able to achieve, particularly in the areas of reproductive and sexual health and gender equality. The ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rely upon investments and resources from the United States, as well as other donor countries. The influence the U.S. has over foreign policy cannot be overlooked. Their funding is crucial in garnering support from communities around the world to see the SDGs come to fruition. The proposed budget has received strong criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

The Trump administration’s budget proposal focuses on allocating majority of the federal dollars towards the defense budget. It is important that the International Development community stress to Congress that the USAID and the State Department are important entities to protect the United States from foreign attacks against our great nation. It is imperative that both the United States and the rural international communities are backed by the USAID and State Department.

Let’s Stop Playing Catch Up: How Stronger Integration Helps Us Get Ahead of Threats

By John Oldfield, Water 2017

Investment in clean water is paying big dividends for people worldwide; since 1990, two and a half billion people have gained access to an improved source of drinking water.  Yet 1.8 billion people still are forced to use a source of contaminated drinking water, putting them at risk of disease, and contributing to around 842,000 deaths each year.

These stubborn statistics are linked to clearly missing incentives in the field: water experts often get paid only to provide water, health and food security experts get paid only to provide medicines and food. But this is an integration challenge that can be overcome by more consciously reaching out across sectors.

The Sustainable Development Goals commit those of us working in the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector to universal coverage of WASH by 2030. Achieving universal coverage of WASH systems and services will also contribute meaningfully to other important development goals, food security and public health in particular, and help prevent a number of threats.

To accomplish these inter-related goals, we need to ensure that the key local stakeholders, in the WASH sector and far beyond, are all in this together.  It is a challenge and a responsibility that I feel particularly acutely as a WASH professional, but one that I welcome. More localized, grown-up conversations amongst various ‘competing’ sectors can help us make greater strides toward 100% coverage of WASH, and make vital progress toward public health and food security.

A few years ago, Ellen Laipson, then President of the Stimson Center, said to a DC audience that while she “appreciates the aggregating of judgments” of the U.S. intelligence community and others inside the Beltway, “the real world is going to be about the disaggregated realities.” So even if we in DC think we know how and where water systems, roads, healthcare facilities, and schools should be constructed, and how they should be used, our judgments are often in stark contrast to the ground-level, daily realities faced by families and communities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

To ensure that the systems and services we help provide are appropriate and aligned with those ground-level realities, we need to reach beyond our own verticals, and design programs to accomplish multiple objectives that are driven by those local needs and ambitions. And since WASH is such a fundamental and cross-cutting factor across all of the SDGs, those of us in the WASH sector are particularly obligated to reach out.

So what does this really mean in the real world of “disaggregated realities?”

Integration Challenge 1: Preventing droughts from becoming famines

When there is an exceptional drought forecast for a particular country, this of course threatens local water security, but also food security, education and public health. We need to get ahead of those threats, not simply respond after the fact with disaster assistance. We have stronger projection ability showing us where the next droughts will occur. Local water professionals therefore need to reach out (well before the drought hits) to agriculture, environmental, even health professionals to determine how to harvest and store enough rainwater in the local aquifers to allow farmers in those communities to continue to work their fields and feed their families and communities throughout the drought. We in the international community can help: how about a partnership between USAID, NASA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Caterpillar to prevent those next droughts from becoming the next (preventable) famines?

Integration Challenge 2: Ensuring public health

We do not know when, where, or the precise disease agent, but we do know there will be another water-related infectious disease (e.g. cholera, Ebola) that could go pandemic and reach our shores. Local WASH professionals across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, in collaboration with their partners in the development community, are obligated to reach out to their public health counterparts to design and implement locally appropriate programs to be sure that hands are washed by the hundreds of millions in West Africa, that every health care facility in the world has access to water and sanitation, and that both human and medical wastes are upcycled (e.g. into fertilizer) or properly disposed of. A challenge to water and sanitation professionals: invite your local health counterparts to a meeting on how to achieve both WASH and health outcomes in your next project.

Making these changes in our own behavior won’t solve our integration challenges overnight.  We are all still going to struggle with the inertia of our own institutions and logframes, which pulls us inevitably back to a focus on what we know and what we control.  But by actively seeking partnerships with colleagues across sectors to address mutual challenges, we can bend those institutions over time to help people and communities get more of what they need.

John Oldfield is CEO of Water 2017, a one-year effort to encourage President Trump and the U.S. Congress to prioritize global water security as never before, and to position this issue as a leadership opportunity for the United States across the globe. He previously led WASH Advocates from 2011-2015.


Please help us continue this conversation in the forum:

  • Where have you experienced a situation where your program outcomes depended on expertise from beyond your sector?
  • What implications have you seen from not integrating WASH and other sectors such as health, food security, & environment?
  • Have you ever tried to engage colleagues from other disciplines to support your own work? How much enthusiasm did you receive? What lessons did you learn for how to engage colleagues from other disciplines in the future?


This is a blog!

Have you ever wondered what a blog is?  Wonder no longer!  This is a blog.

Bloggety blog blog.

Locus is very special. Photo credit: camera

Three kinds of blogs

There are three kinds of blogs:

  1. The first kind.
  2. A second kind.
  3. All others.

Mark Twain once said, “the internet is terrible.”

Now you know.  Thanks for listening!

Our “biggest frustrations” in building gender sensitive programs

Yesterday was International Women’s Day—a moment for intense reflection for development workers. Thinking hard about gender forces us to think hard about good development: when we force ourselves to confront the many related needs, wants and perspectives of women and girls, we also force ourselves to confront where our standard development toolkit often comes up short in serving those same needs, wants and perspectives.

Locus is committed to building a better development toolkit, so that people and communities can take more control over their own development, and pursue the integrated approaches they need and want. So we thought IWD was a good time to ask our community, “What is the biggest frustration you’ve faced trying to design/implement gender sensitive programming?” Here are highlights of what we heard:

Photo credit: amenclinicsphotos ac

Good gender programming depends on building the right partnerships:

  • “I always find it frustrating when we try to prioritize gender equality or women’s empowerment, but without the appropriate partners in place. . . It is one thing to engage a very local, 100-person women’s organization that understands the local context, but is not going to be able to help design and implement the overall project. It is a very different thing to partner with a national or regional women’s rights organization that understands the systems at work, has connections to multiple key stakeholders, and has the capacity to advocate for change. It is these types of significant partnerships – with women’s and gender equality organizations receiving bigger pieces of the pie – that are needed in order to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment goals are met.”

Donors don’t place enough value on gender expertise—and often aren’t willing to invest in it:

  • “Gender specialists cost money that often organizations cannot afford to spend if covered by overhead. They can’t justify the cost because gender specialists often are not needed to win awards. Most RFPs and proposals don’t seem to be written with strong oversight from gender specialists (not just input) and don’t seem to require gender mainstreaming . . . Practically speaking, at the end of the day, we have to go where the money is to stay alive and the money doesn’t yet seem to be with gender equity/equality/mainstreaming.”
  • “Sometimes there is a disconnect between the strong intention of implementing gender sensitive programming and the resources (time and budget) provided. Ideally, the intention (and resources) are clear from the first day of planning, but more often than not, I’ve found myself trying to retro-fit a gender lens into existing projects. Unfortunately, this means unplanned expenses. For small NGOs, supplying the budget to hire a gender specialist, for example, is not always possible.”

But implementers don’t always prioritize or invest in gender, either:

  • “In one organization, our self-appointed (senior leadership-approved!) “Gender Team” dismantled after realizing we simply didn’t have the bandwidth to take on our intended activities without an official mandate from the leadership; who, as it turns out, only saw us as a volunteer awareness raising group.”

Attracting and retaining a gender-diverse staff—and enabling their success—is a significant challenge:

  • “Achieving gender equality in staffing is not only a matter of hiring – it’s a matter of ensuring a safe and supportive environment. In offices that is do-able with committed effort – in the field is requires a far greater commitment and often a total re-design of programming. It is not a matter of empowering women to survive in a dangerous, male-dominated world — it is matter of transforming at least enough of that world for women staff to succeed.”

What thoughts do YOU have?  Please contribute to our conversation!

Want to help women take more control? Help them tackle multiple problems at once

By Karina L. Weinstein, FXB

As my colleague John Coonrod noted, women face an array of challenges which can’t be solved in isolation. If you help a mom send her daughter to school on an empty stomach, how much will she really learn? If you help a woman take her children to a doctor, but they are drinking polluted water, how much will their health improve? In fact, interventions that attack individual problems often fail to help people escape extreme poverty.

Ottilia Perez knows firsthand how both the challenges of poverty—and their solutions—are tightly entwined. When FXB approached Sra. Perez to join the FXBVillage program in Barranquilla, Colombia, she felt a sense of despair about her life. She was living in one room with her seven children, who were not attending school due to lack of financial resources, and she couldn’t land employment because she didn’t know how to read.

Sra. Perez with her children outside of her home. Photo Credit: Cecilia Lavergne, Director FXB Colombia

Through the FXBVillage program, Sra. Perez learned how to read and write, acquired the knowledge and resources to improve the sanitary conditions of her house, and learned how to provide quality nutrition to her children. Most importantly, she was given startup capital and business training to start a grocery store in her community. From the income she generated from her business, she was now able to expand her house, pay for her children’s school expenses, and provide them with better nutrition. (Listen to Sra. Perez’s story here.)

 What is an FXBVillage?

The FXBVillage Model is a time-bound, sustainable and holistic approach that provides access to capital and knowledge necessary to secure a livelihood for poor families. The model is based on the Public Health Paradigm taught by the late Dr. Jonathan Mann of Harvard University, which emphasizes the inextricable link between health and human rights and need for holistic approaches to break the cycle of poverty. Through 168 FXBVillages, 84,000 people have found their path out of extreme poverty since 1991.

Each FXBVillage works with 80-100 families, approximately 500 individuals. The FXBVillage Model offers funding and training for participants to start a small business and incorporates three years of support to address the five pillars of poverty: nutrition, education, health, housing, and income. As the participating families’ abilities to meet basic needs increases, FXB gradually lessens financial support, indicating that the families have become self-sufficient (referred to as the “graduation approach.”)

Through the delivery of essential services such as nutrition, education, health, and housing, FXB increases the capacity of poor families and children to reach their full potential. Moreover, with business coaching and training, participants are able to secure a livelihood. As FXB’s investment is scaled down each subsequent year and finally removed altogether after the third year, the sustainable income from income generating activities allows the families to provide for their children.

 What makes integration so hard?

Taking an integrated approach isn’t easy. The two biggest challenges we face are finding donors willing to support integrated programming, and understanding how the diversity of interventions actually contributes to people’s success.

FXB implements FXBVillages through the support from diverse funders ranging from the United States government to private corporations. (See the full list of our funding partners here.) Our most daunting challenge is getting donors’ buy-in for an integrated program. Most donors have specific issues they are passionate about and are hesitant to fund an integrated program for three years. Many donors question why the program targets a small number of families (80-100) since all donors are seeking maximum return on their investment.

Second, even though we have solid monitoring and evaluation data, it is complicated to communicate program results in a concise manner given that we have data across various dimensions such as health, nutrition, education, income, and housing.

 These two challenges are closely linked. FXB believes strongly in our model, based on the evidence we have seen from our past efforts. But in order to convince others, we need to help donors and other implementers to start seeing women and girls and their communities as the key drivers of their own development, and allow their choices to drive more decisions about how investments get made. If we achieve that, we are likely to see more integrated approaches take hold.

Same recipe, different geography: Holistic approaches are smart for girls and women everywhere

By Tricia Petruney, FHI 360

Here’s a development scenario you’re probably familiar with: Imagine a young girl growing up in a remote rural area, raised in a poor family. Girls here are not typically encouraged in the same way as boys are to imagine themselves having exciting future careers, nor even the more vanilla option of working at the sole local factory. Virtually all the local authority figures are men. Contraception (especially for adolescents) carries a shameful stigma and is difficult to access. The girl’s school is chronically underfunded. Some of her peers get pregnant early, some drop out of school, some marry early. In short, she faces several financial and social barriers to a healthy, stable, and productive future. Now be honest: were you picturing a young girl from a poor country in Africa or Asia? If so, you’re wrong.

Seychelles, 2017. Photo Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown

That girl was me. Who grew up in America, and is now a healthy, educated woman with a successful career. Does now knowing that the girl in the story was American make the happy ending less surprising? Probably so, and that illustrates a fundamental problem with the way we approach empowering women and girls in the developing world. Indeed, clearly the privilege of growing up in America provided me with a deeply significant advantage in overcoming those initial roadblocks to a healthy and happy life. But what about all of the other various ingredients, that when combined together became my recipe for success? Shouldn’t girls and women be supported in the same way, no matter where they live? Let’s break it down.

First, I was encouraged to pursue higher education despite a lack of family precedent or financial resources. Fortunately, there is widespread agreement that girls and young women in the developing world should be encouraged to do the same, and promising efforts are underway to ensure that more girls can finish secondary school and have access to higher education.

Next, using family planning allowed me to prevent unintended pregnancy while I finished my education and then began a career. I am not alone in recognizing the power of contraception for realizing my goals. In 2011, the Guttmacher Institute surveyed a large number of women in the United States and a majority reported that access to contraceptives had enabled them to take better care of themselves or their families, support themselves financially, complete their education, and get or keep a job. And yet improving access to contraception remains an under-utilized strategy for ensuring that young girls and women in developing countries can similarly plan their futures and achieve their dreams.

Finally, from a young age my mother instilled in me the importance of being financially independent. Doing so requires a combination of being gainfully employed and empowered to make financial decisions. And yet too few girls around the world are exposed to a broad range of potential careers, and too few women are given decision-making authority over their own or the household’s income. Fortunately, efforts are underway to change that through diverse workforce development and economic empowerment programs.

In the end, by being lucky enough to receive a holistic mix of positive education, health, and livelihood messaging and support I was able to overcome a whole range of challenges and thrive. If any one of those elements had been removed, I have a hard time imagining I’d be where I am now. And that’s no different for other young women, wherever they may live. For too long we have collectively approached the issues faced by girls and women living in developing countries through narrowly fragmented perspectives. When we focus on health without addressing education, or on education without economic empowerment, the more opportunities we’ve missed to amplify impact or see long-term results. On this International Women’s Day, I believe we can do better. Several efforts using an intentionally holistic approach to support young women can offer inspiration, from mentoring and positive youth development, to integrated education and health programs. The faster we look at women and girls less as laundry lists of distinct problems and more as real people with complex lives and ideas, the faster we’ll see healthier and more productive families, communities, economies, and societies around the world.

Silos are Sexist

As Locus members, we are committed to integrated programming, but why? And why does it seem to be such an uphill struggle in a world where the prevailing development paradigm is dominated by top-down, narrowly focused, short-term interventions?

The most important reason to pursue integrated programming is that it works for women. Women living in poverty suffer from time poverty. Want to invest in women’s literacy? Fine – but the women in the most severe poverty will not have time for it. They probably wouldn’t even have time to participate in projects designed to reduce time poverty.

Research shows that women can never escape poverty unless they have reliable, time-efficient access to a comprehensive package of public services, including health care, child care, water, sanitation.

Our own epicenter programs across in Africa, co-designed by the women who use them, are based strongly on the principle of co-location of services. Women can take their baby to the health center while their other kids are in the day care center, do their banking and participate in an improved farming workshop, all in a morning.

Epicenter Floor Plan, The Hunger Project

Why isn’t all development done this way? Perhaps because the same patriarchal mindset that tolerates exploitation and abuse of women originates from the same mindset that created the command-and-control bureaucracies which dominate development resources and planning. And I do mean “dominate.” Individuals employed in donor bureaucracies must demand accountability from ministry bureaucrats, who demand it of district functionaries, and down it goes to the poor front-line worker who has no flexibility to be directly accountable to the citizens, but only to the bureaucratic masters.

The very definition of feminism is that it is a movement to end sexist oppression, which is not limited to the relations between women and men, but also between classes, races, tiers of bureaucracies, and our relationship with the natural environment.

So – this International Women’s Day, and every day, we all must advocate for feminism. In every situation, we must analyze the barriers to human progress presented by patriarchy, listen to the people who face those barriers every day, and stand in solidarity with those committed to transforming the prevailing patriarchal power structures. Together we can create a future more consistent with meeting the real needs of people and our planet home.

Building a Different World of Work for Women and Girls

By Gregory Adams, Locus

Women and girls provide much of the labor and talent that makes our communities work. But they routinely don’t get the pay, opportunities or esteem that men do. International Women’s Day forces us to pay special attention to the variety of challenges that women and girls face, particularly in the world of work. As we celebrate the unique and various contributions of women and girls to our communities, we also reflect on how we should be doing more every day to help women and girls claim their rights and reach their goals.

Rosalina, 29, works in the “Turkmenbashi Tekstil Kompleksi” – the biggest textile factory in Central Asia. The new technologies used at the factory are said to be environmentally friendly and constitute no danger to the health of the population. Over 3 thousand people, 95 percent women, work in the textile factory. Photo Credit: Daro Sulakauri/ADB

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030,” that explores how much we ask of the women and girls in our society, and how we often fail to fairly value them for their labor and talent. We’ve asked a number of Locus members to consider these issues, and share how they are grappling with gender and livelihoods in their work.

John Coonrod of The Hunger Project asks us to consider the “time poverty” that women face, and explore how our better development approaches can actually save women time by helping them solve multiple challenges at once.

Tricia Petruney of FHI 360 urges us to draw from our own experience and knowledge to address complex challenges faced by women and girls around the world. She argues that, rather than treating women and girls as laundry lists of challenges, we should seek to design and implement programs that treat women as girls as individuals with complex lives, ideas and ambitions.

Karina Weinstein of FXB explores how the FXBVillages approach helps women tackle a variety of obstacles, to achieve the goals they define themselves.

Finally, we’d like to hear from you: what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in trying to design or implement programs with a gender-sensitive approach? Please sound off in the Locus community of practice forum!

CSW 2017 – Leave No Woman’s Voice Behind: Community-led Development at Scale

The Movement for Community-led Development will once again host a parallel event during the 61st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. To reserve your space, visit


A Davos-style conversation with agency leaders of large-scale strategies that mobilize the leadership of grassroots women and local government for community-led strategies for women’s economic development.

Traditional project-based development only reaches a lucky few. The SDGs require nation-wide programs that empower grassroots women to take charge of their own economic development in every community.


Emily Bove, Executive Director, Women Thrive Alliance

Amita GillLocal Governance Specialist, UN Development Programme

Saba Ismail, Co-Founder, Aware Girls, Pakistan

Daisy Owomugasho, Country Director, The Hunger Project-Uganda

Elizabeth Salazar, Program Manager and Gender Specialist, NCBA CLUSA

Moderator: John Coonrod

Date and Time

Friday, March 17, 2017, 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM EDT


Armenian Cultural Center -Yerevan Hall
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New York, NY 10016