Power is shifting to communities and INGOs need to be part of it

Author: Jenny Hodgson, Originally published at www.bond.org.uk, 11 March 2019. Featured photo by Anna Dubuis/DFID – CC BY-NC 2.0.

Our world is changing from the ground up. Whether a community-owned pub in the UK, participatory budget-making in Spain, a community endowment fund in Zimbabwe, or a post-earthquake bare-foot volunteer program in Nepal, local communities are finding new ways of deciding things and doing things for themselves. And they are organizing themselves and the resources they have to do so.

Jenny gave a webinar on her paper – “New Horizons in Community-led Development” – on June 26, 2019. You can click here to download her paper.

Within the INGO sector, the recent conversations about localisation, resourcing and the future of civil society offer the perfect opportunity for some radical and bold thinking. As a new social renaissance emerges, there are valuable experiences and lessons to draw in from the global south. 

What is driving this resurgence of collaborative citizen action?

There is a growing recognition that our collective “ubuntu” – the ties that bind us together as humans – is broken.  Digital technologies and social media mean that we are more connected than ever, and yet distrust, isolation and fragmentation characterise our social condition. Increasingly, this global phenomenon has translated into political spaces, as we’ve seen with Brexit, Trump’s election and the rise of right-wing populist parties across Europe. 

Societal divides are no longer as simple as north-south or “developed”-“developing”: inequalities within countries are as great as they are between them. Initiatives that set out to organise, mobilise and engage people where they are, to re-connect neighbours with each other and reignite a sense of shared purpose and possibility are crucial to countering these negative forces. 

Harnessing the power of people

The world needs community weavers and bridge-builders, people and institutions who can instil hope and build power at the margins of our societies, in villages, towns, cities around the world.  This new social renaissance is characterised by distributed, citizen-led networks and “relationalism” rather individualism. 

Over the last twenty years, a quiet revolution has been taking place in communities around the world, often despite rather than because of the big machinery of international development aid. Community philanthropy has emerged as a way of organising, as a development strategy and as a set of institutions in countries as diverse as Brazil, Kenya, Russia and Vietnam. 

These initiatives have been shaped by local context and culture, and have been led by individuals concerned about disenchantment and disengagement at the community level, frustrated by the failures of traditional development aid. They are inspired by the belief that without local resources, local leadership and local buy-in, development projects will continue to land like fireworks – to flash spectacularly and then die. 

Although many of these local funds and foundations – such as the Kenya Community Development FoundationTewa – the Nepal Women’s Fund and the Zambia Governance Foundation  – were established as one-offs, there is now clear evidence of a distinct community philanthropy “field”. 

Take the question of money. Although external resources may make up part of their funding structure, these community philanthropy organisations seek to build local cultures of philanthropy – especially among ordinary people – as a good in itself. In other words, people become active citizens who are part of the solution, fostering collective action and flattening power dynamics between who gives and who receives. 

Acknowledging, respecting, valuing and pooling local resources is a direct rebuke of the “beneficiary” mindset that the international development community has helped create.

Shift the power

In the last few years, this scattered and often invisible field (invisible at least in the eyes of the mainstream development sector) has started to organise itself globally, to express its collective voice as an effective alternative to a development system that has been preoccupied by scale and dominated by big institutions. 

It has also become a driving force behind the #ShiftThePower movement. Participatory grantmaking, giving circles, community or affiliate funds have emerged as strategies that seek to share and shift power away from the hands of big institutional gatekeepers – regardless of whether they are in the north or south.

Pieces of the solution are already out there for those would care to look, both in terms of practice and theory. If we want to realise the vision of a flatter, networked world driven from the ground up (rather than the funding down), we will all need to join forces, in solidarity, and in the case of big institutions, that may require some fundamental re-writing of roles.

Jenny Hodgson

About the author

Jenny Hodgson

Global Fund for Community Foundations

Jenny has been the executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations since 2006.

A Fair Share of Public Resources

One of the greatest challenges for community-led development is that in many of the poorest nations, public resources do not reach the communities. While local governments typically get half the public resources in wealthy countries, this number is often well below 10% in many of the poorest nations.

As witnessed by many articles on this site, this data is hard to find. One would hope that every citizen could know what the budget of their local government actually is! We have proposed that the share of public resources going to local government should be a key indicator for SDGs 11 and 16.

In October of 2016, our friends at UCLG published this volume of country profiles with what they could find. We share this link here to buttress advocacy for our colleagues around the world engaging with governments to ensure communities have a change to succeed in their own development.

The Pill vs Gender-based Violence

Tenth in a series for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. Photo: iStock.com/araoraor

December 4 – On this day in 1961, Britain’s National Health Service first made oral contraception available. Despite opposition from the Catholic Church and some other religious groups, a 2012 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that 99% of all women of reproductive age who have ever had sex—including 98% of Catholic women—have used a method of contraception other than natural family planning.

A Harvard Study in 2002 demonstrated the “power of the pill” to give women greater power over their careers and marriage decisions.  

Despite near universal acceptance by women – and demand worldwide that exceeds supply – suddenly during the 2012 US Presidential Campaign, some conservative politicians began saying that contraception is controversial. Melinda French Gates, a lifelong Catholic, expressed shock that contraception could possibly still be controversial. In her keynote address at the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, she stated: “Helping women gain access to contraceptives saves lives. It improves the health of mothers and children. It increases children’s school attendance. It leads to more prosperous families. At the national level, it has even been linked to GDP growth.” And she announced an increase of her foundation’s commitment to family planning to $1 billion by 2020.

That 2012 Summit launched the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Campaign. Its July 2018 progress report shows usage of modern contraceptives had increased by 17% in its 69 focus countries.

The political controversy around contraception is the tip of a more complex and deadly iceberg. The underlying issue is the patriarchal mindset that believes, at some level, that women are the property of men and that they do not have sexual and reproductive health rights. This same mindset underlies the belief that men have the “right” to beat their wives.

There are studies that show that gender-based violence (GBV) leads women to not use contraception – leading to more unwanted pregnancies – which can lead to unsafe abortions. Research in Vietnam explores this pathway – including the fact that unsafe abortions accounted for 11% of the deaths of women of childbearing age.

The World Health Organization, UNWomen and UNFPA have drafted an addendum to their clinical handbook on health care for women subjected to GBV, empowering contraception providers to detect the warning signs of GBV.

In July of this year (2018), the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council achieved major international progress for women and girls.  The Council recognized the right to sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) for the first time ever in a Geneva or UN politically-negotiated document.  It urges universal access to evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services. And there were also resolutions for the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM)  and for accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Overcoming patriarchy – and the violence and destruction it causes – involves transforming social conditions that have been deeply entrenched for thousands of years. We are fortunate to be living at a moment when – despite some dramatic patriarchal backlash – the efforts of so many courageous feminist leaders are finally resulting in progress towards gender justice.

HIV/AIDS is Gender-based Violence

Part 7 for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence

December 1, 2018 – World AIDS Day: In the 1980s, the first cases of AIDS were a shock to everyone. It took months for top researchers to understand it. In Africa, where the pandemic became most widespread, the campaign to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS forced both women and men in rural and urban communities to rethink gender roles and other traditions that had prevailed for thousands of years.

Gender fueling the spread of HIV. In Africa, while males do not necessarily have any more sexual partners in a lifetime than men in other regions, they tend to have them concurrently. And women were socially conditioned to not say “no” to sex. In addition, in some areas, sex was part of traditional rituals.

Communities take up the challenge. In such situations, and particularly in a largely rural society, mere “messaging” is never enough. Organizations such as those in the Movement for Community-led Development, needed to launch massive campaigns to provide accurate education about HIV/AIDS to grassroots community leaders – or “animators” – who in turn would educate all the members of the community.

Beyond the Facts: While having people know the facts is crucial, it has also been necessary to create spaces where community members can analyze their own situation – identify their own barriers to halting the spread of HIV (basically their own gender analysis) -and launching their own solutions. In some cases, community members created solutions that the NGO community organizers would have never imagined. Here are some examples from Malawi, which has a high infection rate:

  • One group of women complained that they needed a way to control the use of condoms themselves. The animators had no idea there were such things as female condoms, until they contacted the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and discovered such things did exist but “nobody wanted to use them.” The women were provided female condoms and – since they had asked for them – they felt they had “invented” them. They publicized them throughout their communities – spreading the word that “sex was better with them than with male condoms.”
  • In another village, there was a closely held tradition of cleansing the “spirit of death” from a home after a man had died, by having someone have sex with the widow – an obvious disaster when the man died of AIDS. The elders said “we have to remove the spirit of death” but concluded they could create a “new tradition” of having a married couple of that family have sex in the home.
  • Campaigns were held to promote voluntary testing and antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, which was widely successful but was not taking hold in one community, with no explanation. The community members carried out some very private interviews, and learned that the local health workers was not being confidential about test results. He was fired, and the community animators informed everyone that in the other communities there had been no problem with confidentiality, and trust was restored.

Living Positively: Initially, microfinance groups in Malawi were reluctant to loan to HIV-Positive people, on the assumption these people would not have long to live – despite the fact that ARVs were becoming widely available. To overcome this stigma, “Living Positive”with HIV support groups were established, and microfinance organizations reserved a special part of their capital for loans to those groups.

Investing in Community Health. The massive international effort to fight HIV/AIDS initially had the unfortunate side effect of pulling the already-scarce health professionals out of the community health system to focus on HIV/AIDS. Now, the world is coming to recognize that even “single disease” campaigns must intentionally focus on strengthening the overall community health system, and engage community members every step of the way.

Ownership and agency. As Mahatma Gandhi wrote, whatever action we contemplate, we must think of the face of the poorest person we have ever seen, and ask ourselves whether the action we take will restore her to control over her own life and destiny. Applying this wisdom has proven invaluable in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa – it was proven again in the response to Ebola (link) and Malaria (link) – and it is a mandate we must apply to all development activities.

The Journey to Self-Reliance starts with Community-led Development

USAID is undergoing a major transformation under the theme “Journey to Self Reliance.” Extensive  field experience shows that this journey begins in communities, and that aid strategies should be designed from the community upwards.

In the past 50 years, countries as diverse as Korea, Philippines, Brazil and most recently Kenya have achieved broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction and improved social indicators through programs of what is now referred to as community-led development (CLD, Caledon 2012).  CLD is distinct from “community-based projects” in that it is a multi-sectoral, multi-year change process that strengthens both sub-district governance and grassroots civil society so that communities can set and achieve their own vision and goals.

Many of those success stories benefited greatly from USAID support, and learning the lessons of those successes can be applied to implementing USAID’s future country programs.

The Foundational Question

Mahatma Gandhi’s famous talisman asks us to think of the face of the poorest person we have met, and ask ourselves whether the action we contemplate will restore her to control over her own life and destiny?  

In practice this means starting with the institutions closest to the people and asking if they were working here, how would they be working? And then, how can we contribute to making them work?

CLD is how development intersects with governance – and, most notably, good community-level governance. If there are no responsive institutions within walking distance, then the young mother in the photo is systematically denied her basic right of voice in the decisions that affect her life.

Five Dimensions of the enabling environment

Based on our research across 70 countries (THP 2013, 2014 and Coonrod 2016), we assessed this question across 5 dimensions – both in terms of national policies and their implementation. Analysis along these dimensions can achieve human-centered systems analysis.

 

  • Active citizenry: Are citizens (particularly women and youth) organized at the community level? Can they enjoy their right to Information? Are there mandatory mechanisms for social accountability and public forums for priority setting?
  • Political Decentralization: Are officials at the district and sub-district level elected or appointed? Do they have the authority to make local decisions or are they more so a tokenistic bottom-rung of a vertical bureaucracy? Are there quotas for women in elective office? Is there an age minimum to run for office?
  • Administrative Decentralization: Are there comprehensive public services within walking distance? Are hours clearly posted and adhered to? Ideally – are services co-located for easy access to women disproportionately affected by time poverty, as well as enabling services to achieve synergies such as shared access to electricity, meeting space and clean water.
  • Fiscal devolution: Perhaps most importantly, do communities command their fair share of public resources, in a timely and transparently apportioned manner? There is an emerging norm of 20% – although most USAID program countries are an order of magnitude lower (often 2 – 5%).
  • Multi-stakeholder planning: Are there effective mechanisms for long-term planning, particularly for inclusive economic development, or is the power monopolized by political actors making short-term decisions – and discarding  plans and efforts of their predecessors? Who are the key constituencies that must be involved in local planning, such as traditional authorities, secondary schools and cooperatives?

 

Phase One – Community Mobilization

Mindset: The first step in implementing CLD programs is to transform the mindset of both grassroots people and local leadership – from dependency and clientelism – to just or democratic , rights-holding citizenship. This process of building confidence and community trust requires skilled facilitation and a phased curricula that builds social capital over time. There are excellent examples of these processes – from Citizen Voice and Action (World Vision), to The Hunger Project’s Vision, Commitment and Action, to the 5-stage Community Empowerment Activity Cycle (CEAC, 2014) of Kalahi CIDDS in the Philippines.  

“Exit as you Enter”: It’s critically important that – from the start – communities are creating their vision of self-reliance, including their ability to mobilize even more resources at the end of the program than during it. The community must own and celebrate their own “graduation”, and realize clear benefits, so as to avoid perverse incentives.

Animators: A key to ultimate self-reliance in these processes is the training of community volunteers who are the “spark plugs” for ongoing community mobilization. Animators are often drawn from and specialize in addressing key audiences (youth, women, ethnic and religious minorities) or develop expertise in a particular sector (health, agriculture, WASH, nutrition). Animators often work alongside and “leverage” the often-scarce front-line professionals, such as community health workers, nurse midwives, and agricultural extension agents.

Self-reliant action projects:  There are many development actions that do NOT require external funding, and it is critical in Phase One to “strengthen this muscle” within the community, as money can be a spoiler. Good examples include hand-dug wells, restoration of irrigation canals or pathways, improving classrooms, or taking loans to purchase food processing equipment that can be used collectively on a fee-for-service basis.

Strengths and Assets: Another key in building confidence and trust is to focus on mobilizing strengths and resources within the community itself. A hallmark in the evolution of CLD is that most practitioners discover it is far more effective to organize around vision and existing assets than around problems. Many tools exist, including PRA tools for asset mapping, simple participatory “SWOT” exercises, formation of VSLAs (village savings and loan associations) and community philanthropy/community foundations through which villages can often access their local “diaspora” working in cities with access to local funding and business contacts.

Phase 2: Integrated Programming

The urgent challenges of the SDG era require integrated programming at the community level. You cannot make progress in reducing stunting, building resilience or women’s economic empowerment without people having access to a comprehensive package of public services (Buvinic 2016).

As community trust and social accountability improve, the community can begin a process of collective planning and priority setting to ensure they have access to a comprehensive set of public services which meet the Four-As (THP 1994):

  • AWARENESS: People must have a clear understanding of the issue(s) and the possible solutions to take effective action.
  • ACCESS: Training, information or resources people need to succeed in their own action must be physically available in the community, and unencumbered by social barriers that could stop some people from accessing it.
  • AFFORDABILITY: People must be able to afford what they need. To a family living in poverty, issues of price gouging, bribery and exploitation all have the same effect of preventing the family unit from affording what it needs.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: People must have ways to hold public functionaries accountable for the public services people depend upon.

This phase often includes the creation of social infrastructure (village development committees, health committees, education committees) as well as physical infrastructure (wells, grain mills, clinics, and schools and classrooms).

In rural Africa, it is often more politically feasible for government to employ people than to build the physical infrastructure they need. This has been key to the success of the epicenter strategy, in which district government agrees to employ functionaries if the community can construct both the physical service center as well as decent housing for nurses.

Phase 3: Achieving and Tracking Impact

Once a community has both the social and physical infrastructure to achieve progress across multiple sectors, there needs to be a regular cycle of data gathering / participatory planning / community action through which people can set priorities and track progress.

This cycle requires a data-for-the-people mindset, so that community members are not only the source of data but also the principal client. Nearly all CLD practitioners have such a system. CARE’s “participatory performance tracker” (CARE 2015) is a well-documented example.

Best practices in this are public information boards, with budgets, targets and achievements, as well as high-visibility Citizen Charters that inform people of service standards to which they are entitled, and phone numbers to call when something is not working.

Note: A well-paid, Western-trained “expert” is likely to achieve sectoral outcomes faster than CLD, but without the ownership, scale and sustainability that CLD achieves for the long-term.

Phase 4: Sustainable Self-Reliance

Many (but not all) CLD practitioners have a clear, measurable exit strategy. The Hunger Project, for example, empowers communities to set and achieve targets across 8 overarching goals measured by 58 indicators (THP 2016), thus “graduating” from the program.

Key prerequisites for graduation (and sustainable self-reliance) include:

  • Generating enough revenue from community enterprises to sustain their facilities,
  • Democratic operations that have changed leadership through multiple cycles,
  • Legal registration as a local development association (or whatever is the equivalent in the country context, such as a formal partnership with government or as a cooperative).

References

Buvinic M. and O’Donnell, M. 2016 “Revisiting What Works: Women, Economic Empowerment and Smart Design https://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/CGD-Roadmap-Update-2016.pdf

Caledon Institute 2012, “Community-Led Development”, https://maytree.com/wp-content/uploads/978ENG.pdf

CARE 2015: Participatory Performance Tracker http://www.care.org/work/world-hunger/agriculture/models/participatory-performance-tracker

CEAC 2014.  https://ncddp.dswd.gov.ph/Media/uploads/Standard_Community_Empowerment_Activity_Cycle_CEAC_Activity_Matrix.pdf

Coonrod, J. 2016. “Participatory Local Democracy: Key to Community-Led Rural Development”, Development (2016). doi:10.1057/s41301-016-0008-2

The Hunger Project 1994, “What Constitutes and Enabling Environment for the Poor to Succeed in their own Development?” https://en.thpbd.org/1994/04/29/enabling-environment/

The Hunger Project, “2013 State of Participatory Democracy Report,” http://localdemocracy.net/report

The Hunger Project, “2014 State of Participatory Democracy Report, ibid”

The Hunger Project 2016, “Measuring Self-Reliance”, http://www.thp.org/our-work/where-we-work/africa/epicenter-strategy/measuring-self-reliance/

World Vision, CVA within DPA. https://www.wvi.org/sites/default/files/CVA_within_DPA.pdf

10 Ways to #ShiftThePower

How can we track progress on “localizing the SDGs” and building strong communities?

I had a striking experience this Spring in rural Benin (photo above). Young villagers were learning to use the web at their Hunger Project epicenter. What were they looking up? How to access their local government — information still all too rare, and information that is power.

July 10, 2017 began the second UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Forty-four nations have submitted reports on their progress towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the focus on Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.

From our perspective in the Movement for Community-led Development, the key is to shift the power from top-down to bottom-up. Countries must put resources and decision making in the hands of local communities. In the words of Pope Francis, we need to empower people to be “dignified agents of their own development.”

Is this happening? Are grassroots people gaining power? And how would we know?

One good sign is that many of the 44 countries are putting it in their Voluntary National Reports (VNRs). The VNRs cite planning and consultations with local governments and civil society, and making “localizing the SDGs” a priority. For the first time in years, the Human Development Report 2016 writes about fiscal decentralization.  Yet grassroots women’s organizations and youth continue to express frustration at their lack of inclusion — particularly given their critical roles in society.

Here is a top 10 list of best practices that some countries and donors have begun applying — and we believe all should follow suit. Click on the links to learn more.

  1. Grassroots Women’s Leadership and Organizations. The most important place to #shiftthepower is to strengthen the collective voices of women as agents of change in their communities by funding women’s organizations and providing leadership training to women who’ve never before had that opportunity. Women are on the front lines of ending hunger and poverty, yet a tiny share of aid supports these critical organizations.
  2. Young women’s cooperatives. Recent commitments to women’s entrepreneurship are wonderful, yet only a small fraction of women want to be entrepreneurs. The best pathway for broad-based economic progress for women is through investing in their cooperatives, particularly for young women.
  3. Citizen Charters. This simple device informs citizens of the standards they have a right to expect in the full set of public services, and how to access them. Afghanistan is in the process of transforming its highly successful but narrowly focused community-driven National Solidarity Program into a comprehensive community-led development program based on Citizen Charters.
  4. A Fair Share of Public Resources. The lowest income countries tend to allocate a far smaller share of public resources to local governments than do wealthier countries, yet a growing number of countries such as Kenya have committed to rapidly reverse this trend.
  5. Community Philanthropy. Impoverished communities need not only depend on public funds — many communities establishing their own Community Foundations and tapping into the desires of community members and their own diaspora to invest their own resources in improving lives.
  6. Social Capital. Aid has never been the primary resource for development — it has always been people power — the hard work of women and men to improve their own lives. “Social Capital” comprises the organizations and linkages people have which leverage their efforts, and there is a resurgence of evidence in the process of building and measuring social capital.
  7. Bottom-up BudgetingThere is now a wealth of evidence that mobilizing citizens to directly allocate a share of the government budget pays enormous dividends in improved services, transparency and accountability.
  8. Data for the People. National quality of life surveys do not empower communities to set their own priorities and track their own progress. Proponents of community-led development have devised numerous innovations — community score cards, citizen report cards, and community-level household surveys.
  9. The Future for NGOs. As civil society has gained influence, some governments are cracking down, particularly on “foreign-funded” NGOs. Do international NGOs (INGOs) have a future, and what is it? Civil society, like a free press, will always be needed to help people hold their governments to account. Civil society must be locally led — backed up by global networks and INGOs. NGOs have a competitive advantage in community mobilization, process facilitation, training, and capacity building — a role that many governments see as partners rather than opponents.
  10. District Coordination. The “middle” level of government — the county or district — is often where local community aspirations can access the technical resources of government and the mainstream economy. Monthly district coordination meetings among NGOs, academia and government departments can work strategically to truly ensure all communities are empowered to achieve the SDGs.

 

New Evidence from Bangladesh

(Photo: The Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University)

Researchers at Princeton, Columbia, Cambridge and BRAC — working in communities mobilized by The Hunger Project — have demonstrated the value of building strong communities.

As announced here by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School: “Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study finds that low-income individuals who trust their communities make better long-term financial decisions. This is likely because citizens rely on friends and neighbors for financial support rather than quick fixes like payday loans, which further indebt them.”

“In terms of policy, the findings show the importance of building strong communities, especially for low-income individuals. The researchers suggest moving away from a focus on low-income individuals, instead focusing on low-income communities through targeted policies.”

NCBA CLUSA & USAID Diversify Funding and Program Approach

NCBA CLUSA‘s Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel-Enhance Resilience (REGIS-ER) project, is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) multi-sectoral initiative started in November 2014 and will continue until November 2018. REGIS-ER promotes sustainable livelihoods, strengthened governance, and improved health and nutrition. This project breaks out of silos in funding and programming to bring integrated program design to a susceptible region.

The USAID RISE program is bringing humanitarian and development funding under a single initiative. The relationship between humanitarian and development funding is found in resiliency. By building resiliency, communities hit with disasters will be able to break out of the cycle of crisis management and need less humanitarian aid. Projects in REGIS-ER are community-driven: community members are intimately involved in program participation and execution. Highlighted projects include poultry vaccinations, water borehole rehabilitation, conservation farming techniques, and mother-to-mother groups that promote healthy pre- and ante-natal care.

The REGIS-ER projects engage local governments and, in partnership, work together to build infrastructure. Physical infrastructure like new wells and field improvements will help a community become resilient. Investment in human infrastructure will lead to healthier children and soon, a healthier population. Programs that encourage exclusive breastfeeding and educate about good nutrition are beneficial and necessary for long-term sustained resiliency. Additionally, many programs encourage women’s engagement and participation in the economic sector.

This integrated multi-sectoral approach breaks down siloes and promotes development that is community-driven and sustainable. This kind of approach gathers support from within communities and is more self-sustaining in the long-term. As more evidence that supports integrated solutions and community-led and driven development emerges, USAID should continue to fund these kinds of projects. The long-term benefits from community-led and community-driven development will make regions like the Sahel less susceptible to crises caused by severe weather occurrences and other disasters.

This type of integrated approach is mirrored within USAID, too. In the Request for Application form for this project there is a directive to carefully track funds used in the project that come from earmarked funds (p.74): Global Climate Change, Global Health Initiative, Feed The Future, Environment, Water, and Humanitarian Assistance. The request to track and report these specific funds suggests that the RISE program is gathering funds from multiple stakeholders; a collaborative and integrated approach. Here USAID is truly leading by example.

Read more about USAID’s RISE initiative and NCBA CLUSA’s work here, here, and here.

Image courtesy of ncba.coop

Evidence from Bangladesh

Counterpart International recently completed a three-year leadership development project in Bangladesh (LDP) with 13,000 participants funded by USAID. Several conclusions from the Baseline Assessment (here) and the Impact Assessment Final Report (here) that are relevant to our Movement for Community-led Development are:

  • Trainees’ knowledge and understanding of community development (Performance Monitoring Evaluation Plan #2) – a central goal of the LDP – achieved one of the largest positive changes. After training, leaders reported increased understanding of community development, as well as greater confidence in their ability to bring about change in their community. (p. 14)
  • As with commitment to addressing development challenges, greater knowledge and understanding of democracy is associated with greater political and community engagement (PMEP #12). Training increased this sort of engagement, including the range of civic activities in which LDP leaders participate. (p. 14)
    CPI blog graphic 1

     Graphic, p. 47
  • The number of leaders who indicated that they were highly involved in organized efforts to improve their community increased by 11 points, albeit from only 26 to 37 percent. Participation in formal community development committees rose from 26 to 41 percent, and 54 percent of LDP participants said their participation in community projects had increased in the previous year, up from 39 percent before training (p. 16)
  • Reflecting this greater participation, 54 percent of LDP participants said their participation in community projects increased over the previous year, up from 39 percent prior to training. (p. 53)
    CPI blog graphic 2

                                                     Graphic, p. 49

    Counterpart International’s Bangladesh Leadership Development Program largely achieved it’s goals. There were marked increases in participants self-confidence to take on leadership roles within their communities as well as being more accepting to women and girls in non-traditional roles and leading community projects (p. 34). All graphics and figures from the Impact Assessment Final Report.