Solutions

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

While some projects do evaluate sustainability, it is most often focused on renewal of funding (OECD). If we did what most people think we are actually doing, which is evaluating international development projects for how well we built their capacity to be self-sufficient, Valuing Voices and the rest of us could conceivably retire.

The EU alone has spent over $1.4 trillion dollars on international development since 2000 while the US has spent $277 billion without our knowing what sustained impact these development projects will have… yet.  There IS a better way to serve communities in need, and learn from our real return on investment to have a more sustainable impact.

At Valuing Voices, that starts with:

  • Shifting the development model from what we donors/ implementers think is best to what communities think is best for them – by asking them, designing projects with them
  • Listening to the local communities  – by evaluators from the countries we serve to better understand what communities need during and after projects and learning what worked and didn't – by listening to them
  • Documenting what communities have sustained themselves or even revised differently–  and designing that way from now on – by learning from them during implementation
  • Learning what works most sustainably (and doesn’t) and discussing our successes and failures throughout the development community – by sharing among all of us
  • Becoming an advocate for the communities we serve – by seeing ourselves as them and changing our development policies to support country-led 'development' and learning

The key learning here can't just be within the walls of our development industry. It has to come from the communities we serve and go back to them, be retained in-country.

We need to Value Voices for global well being based on local growth to really take off.

Read the blog and advocate for change, invite me to speak, let's collaborate on putting our true clients, our participants, front and center in ‘development’.

There IS a better way to serve communities in need and have a more sustainable impact.

We need to build the capacity of:

* local non-profits to manage projects,

* national evaluators to evaluate them and

* for countries to sustain them.

We need longer-term funding to local non-profits to sustain the projects once we leave.  We need a track record on what has been sustained 2, 3, 5 years later, replicating what works. There's no funding or interest – until now.

 

The Valuing Voices Model For Change

It's time to redesign how we design our actual projects. This starts with the requests for proposals (RFPs), the implementer proposals, encompasses the implementation work, and needs to include post-project evaluation of both successes and failures, plus sharing what works and what didn't work with others in the development industry.

The key learning here can't just be within the walls of our development industry. It has to come from the communities we serve and go back to them, be retained in-country in databases they manage and learn from.

As U.S. President Obama said about country-led development,  "the purpose of development — what’s needed most right now — is creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed.  So we will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people.  We will seek development that is sustainable….we will partner with countries that are willing to take the lead.  Because the days when your development was dictated by foreign capitals must come to an end. [We want] development rooted in shared responsibility, mutual accountability and, most of all, concrete results that pull communities and countries from poverty to prosperity." 

They are our true clients. We need to ask communities, local NGOs, universities, governments:

  • What worked for them?
  • What do they need more of?We need ongoing feedback loops from communities into design, implementation and future (re) design through monitoring and evaluation.
  • How do we help them get there?

We need to seek feedback from members of the community to understand how we best served them and how we can continue to be of service.  

 

National governments are often the beneficiaries of our work. And yet, there's often a disconnect between the government, its citizens, and our work. We need to use our influence to help bridge the divide between governments and citizens, advocating for the development that their citizens want, not what we think they want that the governments take (often without question). Yet we see worldwide that they youth are taking the streets for change, we need to learn what country-led development (started at Busan) looks like for them.

We can't not do it just because it's hard.  It's not, it just takes Valuing Voices of country-participants.

We need to learn together. That takes humility.

By asking these questions, we can start learning together. That takes fostering flexibility in our systems.

What can we do together to keep the change going?

 

We need to Value Voices for global well being based on local growth to really take off.

Read the blog and advocate for change, invite me to speak, let's collaborate on putting our true clients, our participants, front and center in ‘development’.