Country-led development is key to sustainability.

We need to design for self-sustainability and enduring impact. Without sustained impact data, we don't know what to do more of that could be self-sustained . What worked best? What should we never do again? We don't know. 

$1.5 trillion of international development assistance by just the US and EU since 2000 alone is unevaluated for sustainability and $5 trillion in the last 30 years! Without knowing this, we design based on what we want to give rather than on what people can self-sustain. 

'Country-led development' is often a nice phrase with no substance unless we are designing for handover. We need to work differently. Time and wise resource use are of the essence.

We founded Valuing Voices to listen to stakeholders and build an evidence base around sustainability of project outcomes and impacts. Fieldwork (always co-led by national evaluators) explores what communities and their partners could self-sustain and how we can:

* Shift the development model from what we donors/ implementers think is best to what communities think is best for them

* Document what communities have sustained themselves or even revised differently– and designing that way from now on

* Become an advocate for the communities we serve – by seeing ourselves as them, Prioritizing country-led 'development' and learning policies

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We all want people to be able to feed themselves, be healthy and for communities to thrive. Most development projects help people – but how sustainably? 

Valuing Voices of those at the center of development means creating opportunities to listen to what our ‘participants’ – the women, men, youth and elders we serve – feel they could self-sustain after projects closed.  It means learning from the past successes and failures to design anew for sustainability, in a transparent and accountable way that builds country-led development. Valuing Voices was founded to advocate for and provide data around the sustainability of project results as well as support good design and monitoring and advise on implementation. 99% of the time, donors and implementers do not return to international development projects after they close to assess and learn from what partners and participants could sustain themselves.

$5 trillion has been spent on foreign aid since 1945 and  $137 billion was spent in 2014 on development projects yet shockingly, hundreds of thousands of projects are unevaluated for what ‘development’ has been ‘sustainable’. New policies, partnerships and funding are needed to learn about what we did right to do more of it and for country-led development leadership and sustainability to grow.

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Respectful development includes input early on by partners and participants, and feedback throughout implementation and after closeout from projects. Designing for local self-sustainability involves learning what works best with them to inform future project content and funding. Information such as sustained return on investments from our projects for country nationals as well as donors is real accountability.  We need to ask community and local NGO, government, private partners:

Design, Monitoring & Evaluation and Advocacy Network Services

1- Design, Monitoring & Evaluation:

How can we design and monitor for sustained impacts? How can we track our projects’ return on investment for donor and private funders through participatory feedback about sustained impacts after projects closed? What can we learn from unintended and emerging impacts? How can lessons inform project learning and future design? 

2- Advovacy:

Advocating to clients and donors about the benefits of tracking sustained impacts, advocating for actual Return on Investment of sustained development, including supporting country-led evaluations.

3- Network:

How can we best build national capacity to help local stakeholders evaluate us? What methods for accountability do we need to create?

Using our M&E experts and country-national network a great start.


We are missing lessons from the 99% of international development projects that have not yet explored outcomes and impacts after project close-out. Much great work has been built on by communities and governments, sustaining and innovating from projects that have closed out. Many sustained solutions already exist! Other lessons include what should be avoided which could not be sustained.  

We are happy to support your organization’s learning.


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