Aid Reform that Works: How Ownership, Partnership, Coordination, and Innovation Should be the Core of America’s New Approach to Development


Agricultural development

New approaches to aid over the last decade have transformed the lives of countless individuals struggling with poverty, battling disease, and seeking opportunities to build a better life.  The onset of these new approaches has sparked a debate on reform and how the U.S. can build on them to make foreign assistance more accountable and effective for the people we are trying to help and the U.S. taxpayers who generously support it.  To demonstrate principles of effective aid – and communicate what still needs to be done – MFAN canvassed its Partners to share cases in which a new, innovative way of thinking led to improving the livelihood of an individual, a community or a country.  The following success stories articulate some of the core principles – Ownership, Partnership, Coordination, and Innovation – that MFAN believes should provide the underpinnings of foreign assistance reform.

PMI in MozambiqueOwnership

The most effective way of ensuring long-term development is to allow recipients of aid to take the lead in designing and implementing their own development programs.  Country ownership is about donors being transparent and consultative, helping to build capacity over the long term, and supporting local efforts to take control of their own development.  This principle of aid effectiveness has become the cornerstone of reform efforts, but is also the most difficult to put into practice because it is dramatically different than the current U.S. model for the delivery of aid.  The success stories that follow demonstrate ownership in action and prove that country ownership is essential for development. 

  • Ethiopia halved malaria deaths in just three years (The Global Fund to AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) – In 2005, the Ethiopian government, with support from the Global Fund, unveiled a strategy to deliver two mosquito nets to every family at risk for malaria.  By 2008, 20.5 million bed nets had been delivered, and 30,000 young women – two high school graduates per village – had been trained and mobilized to act as health advisors and to carry out on-the-spot malaria tests, made possible thanks to a new lightweight disposable kit.  The program shows strong roots of local initiative, leadership, and ground-up action.
    • Read more about Ethiopia’s grassroots health care initiative here.

  • Establishing a community voice in mining activities (Oxfam America) – The Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) has gone door to door to inform communities, mobilize concerned citizens, and help people understand the risks of permitting the expansion of mining operations.  Oxfam is collaborating with communities, NGOs, and local governments to develop a strong collective voice in mining operations and has partnered with a spirited grassroots initiative to demonstrate the potential influence of local ownership on critical community issues.
    • Learn how WACAM’s efforts since 2007 have halted the operations of a foreign mining company in Prestea, Ghana here.
  • Smart aid helps Ugandans fight corruption (ONE Campaign) – After a Public Expenditure Tracking Survey in 1996 showed that only 13 percent of educational funding in Uganda was actually reaching schools, the government implemented an anti-corruption program using newspaper and radio campaigns to inform parents associations’ of the amount of funding their schools should be receiving.  This model serves as a strong example of bottom-up accountability, engaging civil society, and empowering local communities in order to diminish the negative effects of corruption.
    • Learn more about the Ugandan government’s effort to empower civil society in order to reduce corruption here.
  • Empowering women in Lesotho (Millennium Challenge Corporation – March 10, 2010) – The Gender Equality project provides training to thousands of women in Lesotho, as well as key institutions and the relevant authorities, in order to expand opportunities for meaningful participation in the economy by all sectors of Lesotho’s society.  The Gender Equality project is headed by MCA Lesotho, a local entity that manages the implementation of Lesotho’s MCC compact, demonstrating the power of indigenous ownership in an effort to improve awareness and practices that support gender equality in economic rights.
    • Learn more about MCC’s efforts to promote gender equality in Lesotho here.

PartnershipUSAID in Haiti

Realizing that we cannot do everything, everywhere, top officials in the Obama administration recognize the need tobebetter partners – with civil society, the private sector, international and multilateral organizations, and with country governments.  Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton have called for “partnership, not patronage” as part of a new model for development.  The stories below showcase examples in which the U.S. government and NGOs have engaged with people on the ground differently and reaped the benefits of a truly successful partnership.

  • Providing 10,000 farmers with secure markets to sell rice (USAID) – Olam Nigeria Limited, a major Nigerian rice importer, wanted to invest in high-quality rice for Nigeria’s market, but farmers faced limited access to critical resources, like fertilizer and credit.  One year after partnering with USAID in 2006, more than 10,000 farmers were provided with access to secure markets, financing, and technical assistance to produce high-quality rice.  The result was an increase in productivity of almost 260 percent, accompanied by more than doubling of farmer net income.  The USAID/Olam partnership is an example of coordination among local private industry and international organizations, and sustainable development at a grassroots level.
    • Learn more about the successful partnership between Olam Nigeria Limited and USAID here.
  • Kenyan reaps from AGOA (USAID) – As a result of the close U.S.-Africa trade ties made possible through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Mike King’ori, director of marketing and operations and an owner of Kenyan company K-Net Flowers Ltd., was able to visit U.S. trade shows and expand his business into the American mass market.  Because of the efficient, coordinating efforts of the AGOA and the USAID trade hubs, African flower merchants have been able to maintain reliable access to the American market, have learned how to better market and brand their product, and have begun to employ savvy and innovative business and technology practices.
    • Learn more about the success of Mike King’ori and the ways in which AGOA is expanding business opportunities in Africa here.
  • Bangladesh primary education (Save the Children Bangladesh Report on USAID) – The Government of Bangladesh’s Primary Education Development Programme II (PEDP II) did not meet the need for early childhood development (ECD), with less than 15 percent of Bangladesh’s children under-5 participating in any kind of education program.  To fill this critical gap, since 2005 USAID has been funding a large and successful ECD and pre-primary education program, called SUCCEED, which works in 1,800 home- and school-based preschools across 600 communities.  USAID also funded the creation of a Bangla version of the children’s television show, Sesame Street, called Simsimpur, which is now the most widely viewed children’s television show in Bangladesh.  The Government of Bangladesh now recognizes the need for pre-primary education and, by 2015, intends to ensure that all preschool-age children have access to early childhood education.
    • Read more about smart aid approaches in Bangladesh in the full report here.
  • Jordan and MCC: Empowering women through building networks, capacity and ideas (Millennium Challenge Corporation – March 6, 2009) – Jordan’s Women’s Knowledge Network, a Jordanian organization focused on enhancing the role of women in local government as a means of ensuring that women have a stronger voice in society, was launched as part of the country’s $25 million MCC Threshold Program and has flourished as a result of careful coordination and partnership between USAID, MCC and the local Jordanian government.
    • Learn more about Jordan’s Women’s Knowledge Network and its partnership with MCC and USAID to improve gender integration in government and society here.

USAID in NigeriaCoordination

In the same way that the current administration recognizes the need to be better partners, policymakers and advocates understand the need to coordinate individual efforts to increase transparency, limit duplication, and encourage accountability.  Coordination – both in the field and here in Washington – plays a critical role in determining the overall impact of aid dollars, and it opens up the door for integration.  See what effective coordination looks like and the dramatic impact it can have on the ground below.

  • Opening the door to Zambian businesses (Millennium Challenge Corporation – March 18, 2009) – The effort to create a stronger private sector in Zambia by encouraging business development and registration has been successful because of efficient collaboration between the MCC (through a two-year, $22.7 million threshold program) and local government agencies, thereby fostering local ownership and accountability.  The effort has also adopted innovative technology, like the fully-automated Customer Service Center in Lusaka, which reduces opportunities for corruption and removes would-be entrepreneurs’ dependence on intermediaries.
    • Read about the success of Zambian business owner Prosper Chanda thanks to the collaborative efforts of the MCC and the local government here.
  • A Ghanaian working mother’s story (Millennium Challenge Corporation – April 14, 2009) – Farmers in Ghana receive supplies so that they can put into practice what they have learned about business planning and crop productivity through training provided by the Millennium Development Authority (MIDA), the local MCC-funded program.  The training provided by MIDA utilizes close collaboration between farmers and training providers and an innovative “value chain approach” to increase crop productivity, demonstrating the importance of collaboration and innovation to promote sustainable, grassroots development.
    • Read about the success story of Barbara Ayisa, one of the farmers who received collaborative training from MIDA providers here, or watch the “MCC in Ghana” video here.
  • SMART aid and private partnership help Tanzania make bed nets for Africa (ONE Campaign Issue Brief) – A to Z Textile Mills, a Tanzanian manufacturer of long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect families from malaria, is a joint venture with a Japanese company, Sumitomo Chemical, which gave A to Z a royalty-free technology license.  The nets are then bought by Tanzanian government agencies, as well as international non-governmental organizations.  The A to Z Textile Mill demonstrates the positive results achieved when foreign assistance works in collaboration with private partnerships to support local industry and employment.
    • Read more about the successful collaboration of A to Z Textile Mill with international and government agencies here.
  • Central African Republic: Government collaboration to immunize mothers (ONE Campaign Progress Report) – In the Central African Republic, the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF collaborated to create the Mother and Child Survival Campaign to decrease the high rate of maternal and infant mortality.  Collaboration across organizational lines demonstrates the potential power of collaborative plans in implementing smart, focused aid.
    • Learn more about the collaborative effort to provide immunizations and other health services to women in the Central African Republic here.

Innovation USAID in Sudan

Given the constant influx of new technology and the desire to find development solutions that are sustainable, innovation has become key to effective development in the 21st century.  Innovation is about connecting people with new tools – like cell phones for rural farmers – and creating opportunity in places where traditional methods of aid have failed to bring about durable change.  The examples that follow speak to such game-changing approaches to aid.

  • Lighting the way to economic growth with green energy (Millennium Challenge Corporation – April 19, 2010) – For Dona Mercedes Carranza and the 30 families in her rural community located in El Salvador’s Northern Zone, lack of electricity hindered development.  In response to these challenges, the Government of El Salvador and the MCC plan to bring electricity to rural communities by installing 1,950 solar panel units.  The collaborative work of the Government of El Salvador and MCC demonstrates how poverty reduction projects might align with efforts to counteract climate change and bring about sustainable development.
    • Learn how green energy brought hope for development to Honduritas, a rural community in El Salvador’s Northern Zone here.
  • Smart aid helps mobile phones bring banking to Kenya’s rural poor (ONE Campaign) – Piloted by Vodafone, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented in early 2007 by local mobile phone provider Safaricom, M-PESA is a money transfer system that allows people to transfer, withdraw and deposit money by mobile phone without a bank account.  The M-PESA program is an example of partnership – bringing together support from international donor countries, technology from international private companies, and initiative from local businesses.  Additionally, the introduction of M-PESA may have huge benefits for customers in Kenya.
    • Learn more about the innovative and collaborative efforts of the M-PESA program here.
  • Saving for a more secure way of life (Oxfam America in West Africa) – In 2005, Oxfam America established Saving for Change, a microfinance program that trains women in rural regions of West Africa – like Djouri Konaré in Mali – to save their money, invest in one another’s small enterprises, and offer programs on practical topics such as malaria prevention to develop skills that make everyday life more safe and secure.  The project demonstrates the positive results of innovative programs that foster indigenous business initiatives and local ownership.
    • Read more about Saving for Change’s innovative efforts to promote financial security in rural communities here.
  • Computers improve commerce (USAID) – Through the Digital Freedom Initiative, USAID works together with leading U.S. companies and a team of local volunteers in Senegal to train small business owners and entrepreneurs to use technology in order to better manage their businesses.  The Initiative has flourished thanks to innovative use of information and communications technologies as a means of delivering efficient business practices and promoting economic growth, as well as international collaboration and ownership at a local level.
    • Read more about the success of the Digital Freedom Initiative in its effort to promote sustainable economic growth here.

You Might Also Like