USAID policy excerpt
The Local Capacity Strengthening Policy guides USAID decisions about why and how to invest in the capacity of local partners to better achieve inclusive and locally led development.
USAID recognizes the central importance of partnerships that result in strengthened local communities—a longstanding practice across every sector, country, and context in which the Agency works.
Through the Local Capacity Strengthening (LCS) Policy, USAID is committing to a unified, cohesive, and systemic approach in which USAID collaborates with local partners to:
Results for Development (R4D) applauds the release of USAID’s Local Capacity Strengthening Policy, which outlines seven principles for local capacity strengthening based on effective programming and equitable partnerships.
R4D works with change agents around the globe to create self-sustaining systems that support healthy, educated people. With our emphasis on change agents’ leadership, and as a partner to USAID in health, education and nutrition programs, we strongly support the policy’s foundational rationale that local actors’ capacity to design and lead improvement efforts is essential to sustainable development gains.
We appreciate that the final policy reflects input offered by R4D and many other stakeholders. It moves beyond the previous emphasis on capacity to administer donor funding in a compliant manner — and toward local actors’ ability to set their own agendas, design preferred approaches, lead change processes, and self-evaluate and renew. We are particularly happy to see the following points emphasized:
- The importance of starting with the local system, the set of interconnected actors who jointly produce a particular development outcome. This is crucial, as sustainable change requires thinking holistically about the interrelated components of a system and leadership from multiple stakeholders in government, civil society and private sector.
- Emphasis on strengthening the capacity of networks, not just individual organizations. The policy notes that “effective capacity strengthening approaches facilitate multiple actors to coordinate, cooperate, and collaborate to achieve collective impact.”
- Appreciation for existing capacities. The policy notes that “local actors possess many of the necessary capacities to drive sustainable development, but they may also want accompanying support.” We appreciate the movement toward a strengths and asset-based approach, rather than a focus on gaps.
- Need for local partners to determine their own performance improvement priorities. The policy is clear that capacity-strengthening priorities must emanate from local stakeholders. It also notes that local partners should lead the development of performance metrics, which should involve mutual accountability among local partners, international partners, and international donors.
- Recognition of the many ways to strengthen capacity. The policy notes the importance of co-creating best-fit approaches with local actors, taking into account their aspirations, goals and needs. Traditionally, capacity strengthening has been synonymous with training, but the policy acknowledges the need for creative methodologies such as coaching and mentorship, learning by doing, peer-to-peer collaborative learning, relationship-brokering and network strengthening.
These principles are closely aligned with R4D’s strategy, and we’re aiming to live them in our partnerships with USAID and other funders — for example through the African Collaborative for Health Financing Solutions, Health System Strengthening Accelerator, and Frontier Health Markets Engage.
But we acknowledge that talking about these principles is easier than living them. To effectively institutionalize and integrate these principles into its programs, USAID and its executive and legislative partners will need to shift its internal policies, processes and incentive structures. It will require additional resources, longer time horizons, increased flexibility, and intentional learning about “how” to put these principles into action. So, we appreciate that the policy outlines USAID’s change management process for implementation, and the establishment of three cross-agency teams to hold USAID accountable to these principles and the local actors it supports.
We look forward to supporting USAID achieve the admirable aspirations laid out in this policy. And even more importantly, we look forward to supporting our local partners around the world to achieve their aspirations.