The lack of ex-post project evaluation at the World Bank: One has no power

The lack of ex-post project evaluation at the World Bank: One has no power

The World Bank has a huge repository of 8,483 evaluation resources in its e-library database, so naturally Valuing Voices was very interested in investigating how many of those resources were ex-post evaluations of past World Bank projects. After searching the term “ex post evaluation” in the e-library, I ended up with 260 hits from those initial 8,483 resources that were a match. This looked like great news to have so many potential ex-post evaluations to analyze from such a powerhouse in international development as the World Bank. From the initial 260 hits, I expected about 50 of them to be what we consider to be ‘true’ ex-post, which is an evaluation conducted a few years after a project has been completed to assess for factors such as sustainability and long-term effectiveness of the program after donor resources had been withdrawn.

However, when I began to sift through the resources in more detail, the results were not exactly as we had anticipated. In order to determine how many of the 260 “ex-post evaluation” hits were true ex-post the process was simple, albeit time consuming. I looked through every hit, reading the abstracts provided by the World Bank and investigating individual resources in more detail if they seemed promising. While doing this, I categorized each hit by document type, keeping a tally of all the totals. The results were as follows:

Document Type

Number Encountered

Impact Evaluations

21

Retrospective Evaluations

21

Non-Evaluations (literature review, recommendations, guidelines, etc. related to evaluations)

53

Other (Policy reports, annual reports, sourcebooks, etc. not related to evaluations)

164

Ex-Post Evaluations

1

 

Total: 260

 

Did anything about these results surprise you? Yes, you read that right. Out of all 260 hits that came up from the search “ex-post evaluation” in the World Bank online database, an astounding grand total of one was a true ex-post evaluation of a past project. A bilateral counterpart, Japan’s JICA, has done 236 in 2009-2011 on past ODA projects, one of our rare stars in ex-post learning.

Suffice it to say, Valuing Voices was shocked by these results. There exists a clear need, based on this research, for the World Bank to contribute to the process of informing future projects by learning from past experiences, successes, mistakes, and community feedback through the valuable ex-post evaluation method. While impact and retrospective evaluations are indeed important, the nature of compiling many evaluations into one broad analysis doesn’t allow for a detailed assessment of how individual projects performed, especially when the respondents in many other multilateral ex-posts tend to remain government counterparts rather than local respondents. This type of comprehensive analysis of the long-term sustainability of completed projects can only be done by conducting ex-post evaluations for projects on a case-by-case basis.

Jindra Cekan (head of ValuingVoices) was invited to attend and speak at the World Bank’s Civil Society Organization spring meetings last week, and, armed with my findings, asked why we don’t see ex-posts at two sessions. Astrid Marroh, a senior staffer tasked with setting new strategy for the Bank, answered that longitudinal learning is, “a nut we have not yet cracked”.  Varun Gauri, writing the major World Development Report 2015 on Mind and Culture at the Bank, said that not only do Bank staff need to, “change the incentives from managing projects as managers to focus on the project’s ultimate aim,” but also that the Bank, “needs to follow the private sector’s approach by ‘Dog-fooding’ our projects– living our own projects“ (where private sector producers try and eat the dog food themselves).           

So what is the takeaway lesson learned form all this? Organizations like the World Bank are what set the precedent in international development, yet even this influential international organization fails to conduct regular ex-post evaluations. Despite having plentiful literature and recommendations on how to conduct ex-post evaluations and why they are important to the development process, it is clear that ex-post is not happening at the World Bank. Now is time for the organization to change the status quo and start valuing the voices of their project participants by conducting rigorous ex-post evaluations of their projects including feedback from the community level, in order to finally address this deficiency and establish a cycle of feedback loops and informed decision making that will benefit all involved – and make ‘development aid’ obsolete. 

Stepping up community self-sustainability, one [Ethiopian] step at a time

 

Stepping up community self-sustainability, one [Ethiopian] step at a time

 

Having just come back from evaluation and design fieldwork for an Ethiopian Red Cross (ERCS)/ Swedish Red Cross/ Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent project, the power of communities is still palpable in my mind. They know what great impact looks like. They know what activities they can best sustain themselves. It’s up to us to ask, listen and learn from them and support their own monitoring/ evaluating/ reporting. It’s up to us to share such learning with others and to act on it everywhere.

There are a myriad of possible sustainability indicators, and the outcome indicators below, suggested by 116 rural participants from Tigray, Ethiopia seem to fall into two categories of expected changes: Assets and Life Quality (Table 1). As the food security/ livelihood project extended credit for animal purchases, it is logical that tracking increased income, savings, assets, and home investments plus expenditures on food and electricity appeared.

We gleaned this from discussions with participants, asking them “what can we track together that would show that we had impact”? Our question led to a spirited discussion of not only what was traceable, but also what could be publicly posted and ‘ground-truthed’ by the community. Discussing indicators led to even deeper conversations about the causes of food insecurity which were illuminating to staff.  What was surprising, for instance, was the extent to which families saw changing seasonal child-field labor practices in favor of 100% child-school attendance as great indicators.  School attendance (or lack thereof) was dependent on families’ need for children’s seasonal labor in the fields. Community members said they knew who sent their children or not, which no only ‘cleaned’ the publicly posted data but triangulated implementer surveys and opened room for discussions of vulnerability.

 

self-sustain-indicators

 

 

Not only is this exciting for the project’s outcome tracking but even more importantly, our team proposed to create a community self-monitoring system, suggested in by Causemann/Gohl in an IIED PLA Notes article– “Tools for measuring change: self-assessment by communities” used in Africa and Asia. This learning, management and reporting process will fill a gaping need as current “monitoring systems serve only for donor accountability, but neither add value for poor people nor for the implementing NGOs because they do not improve effectiveness on the ground.” The authors found that not only “participatory data collection produces higher quality data in some fields than standard extractive methodologies [as] understanding the context leads to a higher accuracy of data and learning processes [which] increase the level of accountability… “ but also that such shared collaboration builds mutual learning and bridge-building.” While our community members may have offered to track this publicly to make this partner happy, men and women discussed this excitedly and embraced the idea of self-monitoring happily. ERCS will be discussing with communities to either track data monthly in notebooks or on a large chart hung in the woreda office for transparency.  Data (Chart 1) would include these asset and quality of life indicators as well as loan repayments (tracked vertically) while households (tracked horizontally) could see who was meeting the goal (checked boxes), not meeting it fully (dashed boxes) or not meeting it at all yet (blank boxes).  Community members corrected each other as they devised the indicators during our participatory research and this openness reassures us that the public monitoring will be quite transparent as well.

 

ParticipTracjking

[1]


 

Further, what was especially satisfying was getting feedback from across the three tibias (sub-regions) on what activities they felt they could sustain themselves irrespective of the project’s continuation. Table 2 shows us which activities communities felt were most self-sustainable by households; these could form the core of the follow on project. Sheet/goats, poultry and oxen for fattening were highly prioritized by both women and men, in addition to a few choosing improved dairy cows. The convergence of similar responses was gratifying and somewhat unexpected, as there were several other project activities.  The communities’ own priorities need to be seriously considered as currently they get only one loan per family and thus self-sustainable activities are key.

 

self-sustain-activities

 

There is more to incorporate in future project planning by NGOs like ERCS. The NGO-IDEAs concept mentioned above also includes involving project participants in setting goals and targets themselves, differentiating between who achieved them and why, and brainstorming who/what contributes to it and what they should do next. Peer groups, development agencies and any actors could collect and learn from the data. Imagine the empowerment were communities to design, monitor and evaluate and tell us as their audience!

And they must, according to ODI UK’s Watkins, who has a clear vision on how to achieve a global equity agenda for the post-2015 MDG goalsHe suggests converting the principle of ‘leave no one behind’ into measurable targets. He argues that, by introducing a series of ‘stepping stone’ benchmarks, the world can set ambitious goals on equity by 2030. He writes, wisely, that “narrowing these equity deficits is not just an ethical imperative but a condition for accelerated progress towards the ambitious 2030 targets. There are no policy blueprints. However, the toolkit for governments actively seeking to narrow disparities …has to include some key elements [such as] identifying who is being left behind and why is an obvious starting point. That’s why improvements to the quality of data available to policy-makers is an equity issue in its own right”. Valuing Voices believes who creates that data is an equally compelling equity issue.

 

So how will we reach these ambitious targets by 2030? By putting in stepping stone targets, returning project design functions to the ultimate clients – the communities themselves- and matching their wants with what we long to transfer to them. In this way we will be Valuing their Voices so much that they evaluate our projects jointly and we can respond. That’s how it should always have been.

What are your thoughts on this? We long to know.

 

 

Sources:

[1] Ashley, H., Kenton, N., & Milligan, A. (Eds.). (2013). Tools for supporting sustainable natural resource management and livelihoods. Participatory Learning and Action, (66). Retrieved from https://pubs.iied.org/14620IIED/

[2] Watkins, K. (2013, October 17). Leaving no-one behind: An equity agenda for the post- 2015 goals. Retrieved from https://www.odi.org/blogs/7924-leaving-no-one-behind-equity-agenda-post-2015-goals

 

Aminata and I both want to be proud…

Aminata and I both want to be proud…

I met Aminata in Mali in 1990 during my doctoral research. She was a Bambara farmer and an impressive woman, with pride in her community. She was a helpful informant during my research on how communities cope with famine, and how famine early-warning systems could support them to do so more effectively (Note: 'early' warning is often far too late to prevent anything, I found, as donors don't want to intervene until far too late). 

 

She's stayed in my mind these 24 years, and I want her to be proud of our international development work. I too want to be proud of what we accomplish to alleviate poverty and ill health by improving lives and livelihoods. We do so much in agriculture/ natural resource management, health and nutrition, education, etc.  Yet do we start with communities' burning needs? End with their evaluating us? Or do we mostly use them to implement our ideas?

I've been part of the problem, part of the development 'industry' for 25 years.  While I've used participatory methods such as PRA/  RRA and Appreciative Inquiry, I've mainly been focused on answering donor questions as to how successful we were, rather than helping communities ask the questions they want to answer and get the resources to succeed. I am no longer as proud of that work. We've left African Aminatas, Asian Aainas, Latina Adrienna's and millions like them behind in our rush to implement, to get more funds, to succeed, win more, 'develop' more….. 

 

In founding ValuingVoices I put myself in their shoes, seeing projects come, projects go, temporary changes coming, some unintended results coming, some building on projects coming, but mostly going.  It's never hard to celebrate local capacity when surrounded by vibrant voices, teaching us about their communities and their needs. What is hard is when so much of those decisions are not in their hands, but are at the mercy of donors who often decided not to support them (after our fieldwork showing both need and great capacity was presented): 'this region was not a priority' or 'we are now working on a new sectoral focus or a new initiative and this is no longer in our priorities.'

 

I am that much more deeply encouraged by a recent article on nutrition that points the way toward building these women’s pride as well as my own by starting with their voices and with donors being willing to listenNutrition research in Rwanda suggests that scaling up community-based solutions is the way forward. They decreased (stunting) malnutrition by 18% in five years which is very fast by "'setting up an almost universal community-based health insurance scheme… with the help of [each village determining its own way to tackle malnutrition… and not packaged interventions provided by donors" said Fidele Ngabo, director of Maternal Child Health. The article says "the Rwandan model could be used in other African countries, where foreign donor-driven initiatives tend to focus on treatment and technical solutions…. Change will only come when nutrition research is led by Africa, and interventions are designed to meet a country’s priorities, according to the findings of a two-year European Union-funded SUNRAY (SUstainable Nutrition Research for Africa in the Years to come)."

fricanPride

(a future Aminata?) 

 

This groundbreaking research highlights the issue so many of us encounter.  "Researchers from developed countries search for African partners for joint research, based on funding and research priorities defined outside Africa… so, despite enormous amounts of money spent on nutrition research and interventions, malnutrition rates have not fallen [in Benin]. Instead, the research agenda should be based on needs identified within the continent. Calls for research proposals of donors should match this agenda… [and prioritize] the locally identified needs and priorities." That sounds almost heretical in some circles.

 

In Benin, "researchers and policymakers wait for 'the dictate of donors before taking action. Hence, donor-funded programmes aren’t sustainable. As soon as they end, all activities are stopped, and acquired benefits and good practices are lost,' said Eunice Nago Koukoubou of the Université d'Abomey-Calavi in Benin, an author of the published findings." Yet the crux of the problem is that donor funding is filling a gap not filled by national governments. It isn't even so much that they are unwilling, rather in the case of Benin, “the government is trying to raise funds for the [strategic plan where nutrition should be central in development]", which also needs technical capacity building, a means of carrying on data retention and learning and a means of sharing findings with each other. What is needed is a "partnership between African researchers, 'who have more credibility and knowledge of the context', and Western researchers with the resources and opportunities (e.g. the African Economic Research Consortium).

 

Until we get to national partnership, let's improve our local ones. Let's really listen to participants in co-designing activities in projects we still think are best. Let's build on and share SUNRAY's approach of starting with what Aminantas, Aainas, Adriennas want and get Rwanda's great results. Let's partner in the truest sense of the world. After all, this excellent article underscores that "ultimately it is about political will…. [some] who feel they lack resources to tackle their long-standing battle with chronic malnutrition have to realize that “your children are not the donors' children, they are yours." They are our children, at least we need to treat them with respect as if they were.

Prospects for long-term sustainability…or lack thereof at the Macro Level (Part 2)

Prospects for long-term sustainability… or lack thereof at the Macro level (Part 2)

 

During 2003-2004, the OECD conducted a very interesting Ex-Post Evaluation Sustainability Summary that synthesizes four separate Regional Rural Development (RRD) projects, which has illuminated sustainability of the impacts of German RRD projects over nearly a 30-year period.  The goal of this evaluation was to use the perspectives of local experts (evaluators and national consultants) to inform the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development about the true impacts of four rural long-term projects.

 

The four projects evaluated were:

·      Indonesia – Area Development Project in West Pasaman (1980-1992); German contribution: €32 million; Target population: 200,000 urban and rural people

·      Sri Lanka – Regional Rural Development Project (RRDP) in Kandy (1987-2000); German contribution: €8.1 million; Target population: 200,000 rural small-scale producers

·      Tanzania – Tanga Integrated Rural Development Program (TIRDEP) (1972-1993); German contribution: €75 million; Target population: 700,000 rural small-scale producers

·      Zambia – Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP) in Kabompo (1977-1993); German contribution: €30 million; Target population: 65,000 rural small-scale producers

 

While these programs “had been implemented in regions with very different underlying general conditions,” involving interventions of varying scales, with different socioeconomic conditions affecting the different countries and have effected a great number of changes in their respective countries, German’s RRD experts also drew similarly positive findings on outcomes and negative findings in terms of processes and the pitfalls of programming without focus on sustainability.

 

Here is the good news:
 

·      “Living conditions of the target groups have improved in all four project regions,” with specific sustainable project outcomes observed in the “health and education sector, food security, increase in income and employment and the ensuing rise in the standard of living.” The projects were able to create these changes by improving infrastructure, enhancing the private sector economy, and supporting innovations in agriculture.

·      Project planning was done largely on the German side, however it was determined that there was still a relatively high acceptance of the objectives by the participating stakeholders (locals) due to the establishment of joint objectives by locals and the implementing agencies.  

Yet, there were also some factors that jeopardized the sustainability of positive results, which included the (non)maintenance of the infrastructure as well as the intensification of economic activities that led to negative ecological impacts (such as acidification of the soil and overfishing).

looking backwards

Even more interestingly, the OECD gets kudos from ValuingVoices for analyzing where the projects failed to meet their outcomes and sharing what led to unsustainable outcomes. Here is the bad news:
 

·      There was low institutional sustainability at the level of state executing organizations for all four projects due to inadequate funds, inefficient organizational structures and a lack of coordination. Thus, viable exit and handover was limited. Due to this lack of institutional sustainability, it was concluded that, “the putting into place of new structures by means of development projects runs a very high risk of not being sustainable,” noting significant differences in local expectations of the partners and the concepts of the RRD. Hence imposing structures ex-post rather than designing with sustainability in mind doesn’t seem to work.

·      There is also an issue of changing standards over time. These projects were completed from the 1970s-1990s, but older development schemes are not considered as relevant today. “The former RRD project concept is no longer pursued” today as a result of changes, such as economic reforms and decentralization, which led to the adoption of new concepts. This kind of risk bedevils all ex-post evaluations, akin to asking perfectly good donkeys why they are not thoroughbreds.
 

Further, the processes this collection of ex-post studies illuminates are key:

 

·      “The expenses for the consultancy services of German experts were often considered as disproportionate compared with the hardware supplied. Here, partner expectations obviously were not consistent with those of the German side.” Potentially this is an incentive to use national evaluators. Yet the study concluded: “this serial evaluation has brought about a change in perspectives in part through the deployment of local experts. However, the qualification profile of locally available consultants varies considerable. The results of this serial evaluation do not suggest a general shift of evaluations to local organizations.” This study was 10 years ago so this has also begun to shift, even though pairing a ‘northern’ evaluator with ‘southern’ ones is more the norm.

 

·      Finally, “the termination of German support was often considered abrupt and incomprehensible. Phasing out was done according to German views and did not take sufficient account of the partners’ views and needs as seen by them…[which] provides grounds for a systematic conflict between the interests of the partners and those of the German side.”  This is key in reforming international development, from artificial timelines to those informed by adaptive learning, that takes into account and is even led by community and local NGO learning and readiness to take the helm themselves.

 

There is much to learn from OECD reviews such as this one about both the aims and processes for ex-post evaluation. What remains unclear in all ex-post evaluations Valuing Voices has found is what the organizations and donors have learned from them, and to what degree they have applied the lessons learned to the rest of their programming. 

What are your experiences?  Have lessons from evaluations been taken in? How? Why not?

 

What are the prospects for self-sustained impact at the Macro level? (Part 1)

What are the prospects for self-sustained impact at the Macro level? (Part 1)

After studying various impact evaluations, it became clear that different development projects also have different scales, with multilaterally-funded macro-level being focused on higher scale objectives from the municipal up to the national level while micro-level are geared towards improving socioeconomic aspects of communities. Our research revealed that there is a recurring error among projects that makes them ineffective: a lack of community involvement in all stages of the project, or more specifically, their lack of involvement in both the design and the evaluation process. This results in a lack of opinions from the local level regarding project self-sustainable goals, and prospects for ultimate success in self-sustainability. We have seen both macro projects, implemented by multilaterals, and micro projects, implemented by international non-profits, that fail to include local participation in their methodology, but one trend we have noticed is that projects on the macro level, have a tendency to plan, implement, and complete projects with little input from local participants or consideration for the possibility of self-sustainability impacts.

A particularly egregious example of non-self-sustainability at any level is the project for OECD-funded Improving the Performances and Management of Public Lighting in Ho Chi Minh City, which was a project with no ground level/community participation, but rather took place at the municipal level between French company Citelum (supplying technical assistance and equipment) and Sapulico (Saigon Public Lighting Company, Ho Chi Minh City's public lighting authority). From the evaluation summary, we saw the project was most concerned with propagating appreciation for French expertise in the area of public lighting at the national level rather than fostering national electrical self-sustainability. With organizational sustainability as a main objective, the project itself was not considered self-sustainable for a few key reasons:

  • “Sapulico's engineers acquired the necessary [skills required to operate the system], however, their current skill level is insufficient to handle present and future technical difficulties without the assistance of Citelum.” This means that the local company in Vietnam would continue to be reliant on foreign expertise in the likely event of future technical difficulties.
  • Also, jarringly, “there are also concerns even about the project's current viability as Sapulico's budget doesn't allow for the purchase of equipment from abroad, therefore the company will be unable to replace equipment that has reached the end of its lifecycle.”

ElectricalSystem

This highlights an obvious overlooking of future project sustainability due to the local budget conditions and insufficient training. Had the project been more concerned with guaranteeing even national self-sustainability rather than the financial sustainability of the foreign implementing organization, the project overall could have been more successful far into the future….

A more promising example of a macro level project aiming for more localized impact, yet still failing to consider self-sustainability, is the JICA Agricultural Development Project in Kambia District.  While we commend JICA as the most active multilateral to do ex-post evaluation, we again see the tendency of macro level projects to focus on systemic changes at the national or at least regional level which often self-sustainability buy-in, whereas micro level projects tend to focus on communities or at most sub-regions with the objective of fostering longer-term sustainability. This project, on the other hand, is a hybrid of macro- and micro- as it was to intervene at a district level and it did try to create agricultural extension buy-in. The key takeaways from JICAs post-project evaluation:

  • This project was concerned with improving agricultural productivity at select sub-district pilot sites, and then a further extension of the project throughout the entire Kambia District. The evaluation focuses heavily on the inability of the project to complete this objective of extending the project geographically because there was insufficient manpower, technical support, and funding to complete project dissemination, which suggests that sustained impact was not fully considered when planning implementation. It also suggests it did not expand because lessons seem not to have been learned from the implementation, and funding was not longer available.
  • The key point here is that the project did not secure adequate resources or funding for the true completion of its objective, which was to extend the successful outcomes that they observed at the pilot sites further across the region. This resulted in an evaluation analysis of sustainability that was only “fair”.
  • This project also fails to mention any local participation in the design, planning, implementation, or long-term sustainability phases, so despite seeing successful outcomes in increased crop production at the pilot locations, the evaluation was ultimately negative.
  • It is clear from the evaluation that the project was being executed from the side of the implementing agency rather than involving local participation beyond the extensionists, and no input was asked from community members about resulting agricultural self-sustainability.
  • The crux is that had the project been more focused on local self-sustainability beyond the regional extension system, its own organizational deficiencies (lack of manpower, technical support, and funding mentioned above) might not have hindered the ability to expand the project further.
     

Compare these findings to those we have analyzed in other blogs which illustrated the far more successful project and evaluation results that micro level non-profit development agencies like Mercy Corps, Plan International, and Partners for Democratic Change fostered when they made community participation the key to their development process. However, JICAs Kambia project and the Vietnamese Public Lighting program are not alone in their shortcomings, because the consistent lack of local community involvement in community-focused projects is a theme that we continue to see with macro level and micro level development schemes – a pattern that Valuing Voices is determined to change.

Overall, what we have discerned from this analysis is that projects conducted by macro level multilateral actors have a lower chance of ensuring self-sustainability, in part because they usually aren’t linked directly to the community in regional or national-scale projects. By contrast, micro level projects by international non-profits tend to have a higher chance of fostering greater self-sustainability because they are linked more closely to the end users of development, thereby benefiting both the organization itself as well as the local participants from more inclusionary practices.

We can clearly see that at least a few organizations, both at the macro and micro level, are asking the right questions by conducting these post-project evaluations. However, a systemic problem persists in that virtually no one is designing for self-sustainability. But without it, how successful are we really?

 

Partners For Democratic Change: Promote Capacity Building to Achieve Self-Sustainability!

Catalyst organizations are those whose focus is on implementing programs with community level involvement during projects and local feedback loops to inform post-project evaluations for impact self-sustainability. An excellent example of this is Partners for Democratic Change, whose stated mission is, “to build sustainable capacity to advance civil society and a culture of change and conflict management worldwide,” focusing on initiating democratic practices through an approach called Sustainable Impact Investing. The goal of this approach is to foster the capacity of in-country organizations to “deliver systematic change,” with a focus on development that, “is bottom-up, locally-led rather than foreign-led, based on the belief that change comes from sustainable efforts led by local people, organizations and institutions invested in their own long-term future.”

To implement this progressive and participatory vision for sustainable development, Partners’ founded 22 Centers for Change and Conflict Management between 1989-2011, initially in the regions of Eastern and Central Europe. They later expanded to other regions struggling with democratic sociopolitical change. Partners’ conducted its own ex-post evaluation that averaged the results of 55 case studies that led to positive significant outcomes. The takeaway resulted in three main sustainability lessons:

  1. “The importance of investing in local partners and building their capacity to promote democratic change;
     
  2. the most pressing development challenges facing the world need to be addressed in a participatory manner with the input and shared commitment of government, businesses and civil society, which requires local leaders with sophisticated skills in change and conflict management;
     
  3. and finally, the work of social entrepreneurs to make a difference in their own countries is strengthened and legitimated by technical and relational support from an international network of like-minded professionals facing similar challenges.”

With these objectives in mind, the greatest positive outcome that was observed occurred in almost 90% of the 55 stories. This outcome was that development and participation of civil society is most commonly achieved through, “education, training, mentoring, coaching, partnerships and coalition building, organizational development and capacity building, and creating and enabling environment that supports civil society development, such as passing NGO laws.” Further, in 80% of cases, there was advancement of good governance by influencing the participation of civil society working with government on the issues listed above, specifically free and fair elections, human rights protection, etc. Another 50% of the cases increased access to justice and managing and resolving disputes/conflicts, thereby strengthening civil society, and about 40% of the stories focused on promoting inclusive societies, improving majority-minority relations, and increasing leadership capacity for women and youth as agents for social change. The overall result of Partners’ efforts resulted in substantial impacts. Since 1991, the Centers have trained around 15,000 mediators and worked directly with more than 300,000 participants, benefitting an estimated total of 17.5 million people – and these are even considered to be conservative estimates. 22 total Centers had been established, and 18 still exist today with a success rate of 82%.

Yet the Centers still faced challenges, most notably in, “institutionalizing the processes they used to achieve results so that impact can be maximized and sustainable.” While the Centers effectively managed to implement collaborative and participatory methods to attain these successful outcomes, without the ability to institutionalize these processes in local communities and government institutions, the likelihood of sustainability is threatened.

Herein lies the importance of valuing local voices and participation, as it is clear that successful development initiatives depend on working with the community rather than on behalf of the community. Collaborative efforts between local participants and the international organizations that aim to enhance socioeconomic development in their communities results in both farther reaching and more sustainable outcomes than projects that ignore local feedback. Partners also does a great job bridging the objectives of building organizational capacity to sustain programming while also ValuingVoices of participants regarding how that capacity will be beneficial to them. There is an obvious need throughout the development community to follow the good examples made by Partners for Democratic Change in order to promote greater levels of participation on the path to sustainable development.