Stopping As Success: INGOs as yeast, not the flour

Kiely Barnard-Webster and Isabella Jean, CDA Collaborative Learning

Created 05/30/2019



Kiely Barnard-Webster and Isabella Jean of CDA Collaborative Learning, part of the “Stopping As Success” consortium, discuss their aims for the research project and dissect previous findings on aid exits.

In 2012, CDA’s book Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid called for a paradigm shift in how international assistance is conceptualized, funded, implemented and evaluated. We aspired to see a collaborative aid system that shifts from a focus on growth to one that seeks a planned draw down and mutually agreed exit or end of assistance strategy.  Across the aid sector, commitments to locally led development and localization continue to grow, along with examples of transfer of power and control, even though the power imbalances between international organizations and their national counterparts remain familiar.

“One of the strongest perspectives apparent in the discussion was that capacity building is not a waste of time, but can be important and constructive.

Capacity development of local organizations is without a doubt one of the most interesting and promising ways of action for international aid, and the one I am investing in as a practitioner. Tomas Serna.

Capacity building should be locally driven. Peter Obi”

– Stopping As Success, Online Consultation

We want to recognize progress where it has been made, understand positive deviance within a system that remains largely externally driven, and to document experiences of international and local practitioners to inform good practice in the future. For the next two years, CDA, and our learning partners Peace Direct and Search for Common Ground will examine approximately 20 case studies of INGO exits largely focused on development and peacebuilding country programs.

We made an intentional choice in naming our consortium, “Stopping AS Success: Planning for Success from Start to Exit.” We are not looking at “stopping AT success” – or the pursuit of development goals with an indefinite timeline. How do we define and measure success? Whose voices and metrics count? What if continued presence distorts local efforts? Is there a way to exit responsibly in support of locally led development? We hope this collaborative learning effort will bring greater awareness of the multiple dynamics at play when international organizations exit.

Bottom-up or Top-down development?

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