The Hunger Project’s Executive Vice President, John Coonrod, recently moderated a panel discussion on community-led development (CLD) during the annual InterAction Forum that took place in Washington, DC from June 20-22, 2017. The panel, titled “Leaving No Voice Behind: Taking Community-led Development to National Scale,” focused on how to improve country-owned programs that promote development for all people at all levels.
In addition to THP’s John Coonrod, the event featured Amy Coughenour of the National Cooperative Business Association, Rebecca Nelson from America Solidaria, and Susan Wong of the World Bank’s Community-Driven Development Department.
Community-led development is at the heart of The Hunger Project’s work across Africa, South Asia and Latin America, John said. When communities are empowered with the right set of tools to achieve their own development, we can see results. The panelists also discussed the effects of country-owned, large-scale community-led strategies, i.e., development initiatives that start from the bottom-up, with full support of national governments. They agreed that NGOs have a competitive advantage when it comes to mobilizing communities and building capacity at the local level, then moving to the regional and national level.
The speakers also highlighted the importance of finding integrated solutions to what should be seen as interlinked challenges facing rural communities. The search for solutions should begin at the local level, the panelists said, because that is where information is most accurate and where partners are better able to be involved.
In addition, access to local government is a crucial factor in determining the success of rural communities in overcoming their challenges. The feeling of inclusion, the panelists said, can be improved by ensuring that government offices and meeting areas are within walking distance of a village (ideally less than six miles away).
The panelists highlighted how cooperatives can be a good way to empower people with an entry point to the market and to local- and regional-level governance. Cooperatives provide the space to reflect on the concerns of the local population and enable rural communities to play a role in community planning.
Looking ahead, the panelists stressed the importance of sharing best practices among countries and the need to harness the power of technology and open data in crafting development plans that can work across different settings.
The InterAction Forum is the largest gathering of international development and humanitarian professionals that takes place every year in the US capital. For the past 30 years, the Forum has convened experts and practitioners to discuss challenges and opportunities for the global development agenda.
Watch the full discussion.