Stopping As Success – What is the role of INGOs in the localization agenda?
Grace Boone and Farzana Ahmed
ADVANCED, BEGINNER, INTERMEDIATE
In June 2019, Stopping As Success (SAS) team members attended the 2019 Interaction Forum to share findings from their case studies and to share insights from the research during a panel session on, Transitions to locally led development: what is missing from the conversation? In this blog, CDA’s Grace Boone and Peace Direct’s Farzana Ahmed reflect on the session, the discussions that came out of it, and the current trend towards localisation within the aid sector.
At the InterAction Forum 2019, the SAS team shared a panel with World Vision, Plan International and USAID to critically engage with localisation processes; a spectrum of approaches taken by international organisations to support locally-led development.
These processes may often be deemed successful, yet continue to be driven by external actors. Essentially, we discussed, to what extent are localisation processes locally led?
Sharing experiences for effective transitions
First, we began our discussions with organisational examples of locally led development. Arjun Tasker from USAID’s Office of Local Sustainability shared insights from their Cooperative Development Program (CDP), which works with US businesses to support the capacity of local cooperatives around the globe. CDP supports pre-existing local capacity, without assuming it is working from a blank slate. We also heard from Justin Fugle on Plan International’s experience of transforming their country offices to local NGOs. For Plan International, the process starts with changing the setup of their country teams. Currently, apart from two country directors, all country directors and managers have been replaced by local staff.
The case studies examined by the SAS team demonstrate that there is a much greater chance of achieving sustainable and effective transitions when INGOs focus on transparent relationship building with local entities.
Localisation efforts need to go beyond cosmetic and surface-level handovers that only appear at the very end of a project. They should instead include collaborative decision-making right from the very start.
This related to Justin Fugle’s point that localisation cannot be ‘faked’ and local organisations should not be treated as instruments of donors, who lack their own priorities and agendas.