On April 16, 2015 John Coonrod, Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project, led a panel discussion on the importance of community-led development and its inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As part of the World Bank/IMF spring meetings, four organizations came together to present broad perspectives and specific methods for empowering communities to take charge of their own development.
Other speakers on the panel included Mirza Jahani of the Aga Khan Foundation, Sarah Ford of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Emily Janoch of CARE, and Ritu Sharma of Women Thrive World Wide.
Coonrod began with an overview of the Sustainable Development Goals, which have been categorized in six key priority areas: people, dignity, prosperity, justice, partnership, and the planet. Connrod emphasized the need to focus on these six areas in an integrated way to decrease extreme poverty and make sustainable changes.
This focus on integration is an important shift from the strategy of former development priorities, the Millennium Development Goals. By integrating all six areas of focus in target locations, and working with community members to understand the needs of the community and prioritize accordingly, we become capable of creating a sustainable change.
The Hunger Project creates sustainable change through
- Empowering women
- Breaking the mindset of patriarchy
- Mobilizing individuals for self-reliance
- Strengthening democracy at the community level
- Building individual leadership capacity
- Using a multi-sectoral approach to ensure that health, education, water, and sanitation advances are all happening simultaneously
- And committing to long-term development and growth
Following Coonrod’s introduction to community-led development and The Hunger Project, Mirza Jahani, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation, expressed the importance of government recognition of community members and taking corporate social responsibility to the next level.
Jahani explained that governments, along with development organizations should be listening to the people and then building around the needs expressed about by the people. He also spoke about involving private-sector companies in development and poverty eradication beyond just the scope of corporate social responsibility; private-sector companies should see community-led development as an investment from which they can gain both financial and social returns.
Sarah Ford, Partnership and Capacity Strengthening Director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), spoke of CRS’s two approaches to community-led development. The first approach, the Integral Human Development Approach, focuses on the individual as a member of family, community and society. The second approach, the Partnership Approach, seeks to partner with indigenous institutions to strengthen and sustain their programs.
Emily Janoch, Knowledge and Learning Advisor of CARE, spoke about shifting our mindset to better understand the needs of communities and investing in the long-term. CARE does this by investing in women and building a stronger governance framework in which informed and responsible citizens are able to access power and spaces for negotiations are opened up between those citizens and current power holders.
The final speaker on the panel was Rita Sharma, co-founder of Women Thrive World Wide. Sharma brought up questions about how we can shift the development agenda from a top-down, expert-based approach to a bottom-up, community-led approach. She explained that in order to make this shift we must gather evidence, put in perspective that most development is already community led and financed, and reform how assistance is done by shifting the “country-led development” conversation to a more community-based approach.
The panel brought to light many important reasons for and approaches to community-led development. Through this conversation, and others to follow, The Hunger Project seeks shift the focus of the Sustainable Development Goals toward an integrated, community-based approach for the implementation of long-term, sustainable change.
Listen to the full panel discussion on Community-Led Development
Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals
Read about how The Hunger Project works with local democracy