Local Ownership: Who, What, and How

See below for excerpts from a piece by Melissa Kaplan, advocacy manger for aid reform and effectiveness at InterAction. Kaplan writes about local ownership and the recent report from Mercy Corps that uses extensive field research and interviews to examine how local ownership is being implemented–ultimately providing recommendations to USAID for how the agency can improve its efforts. This post originally appeared on Devex.


“It was noted that while the United States can deliver “stuff” to poor people around the globe, it cannot deliver what is most needed: power and accountability. Local people and local civil society need to have a real stake in and ultimately be responsible for their community’s own development. This is what local leadership needs to be about.”

“Another idea that emerged is that it’s important to think about a whole-of-society approach for building local ownership. It isn’t enough to build the capacity of a few local organizations — efforts should be put into building vibrant local civil society platforms. There is also a need to help foster better enabling environments in places where space for civil society is restricted. However, while we should engage with new and emerging local actors, it was pointed out that we should keep in mind that the “usual suspects” do bring a lot to the table, including political accountability that may not always exist with others.”

“Local ownership is critically important in order to improve aid programs’ effectiveness and to give local people a voice and a stake in their own future. It is essential not to view local ownership solely as engagement between the U.S. government and foreign governments, but to encompass the whole of local civil society. USAID Forward is making progress in this direction, and the Mercy Corps study shines a valuable light on what gaps still remain and some steps the U.S. government and our community could take to more fully realize the goal of local ownership.”

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