Why local leadership is critical to development projects
Posted: April 25, 2022
Local leadership is crucial for the long-term success of sustainable development projects. In order to support meaningful action which has a lasting, positive impact, we’re committed to making sure our internships and gap year volunteer programs partner with locally-led organisations.
Being led by local communities is essential for any development project, whether community or conservation-focused.
Locally-led development means local communities, individuals and organisations are involved in decision making and can develop solutions to the challenges they are facing. According to Bond, communities and local groups who have a say in how funds are spent and how priorities are set are more likely to feel greater ownership of the outcomes and find solutions to problems that arise.
International organisations focused on community-led development can support existing community leaders, and support and strengthen local structures that can create systematic long-lasting change.
The leadership and resources to make solutions a reality need to be provided locally, with local ownership crucial for achieving sustainable, long-term results in projects.
If local leaders aren’t involved in the decision-making process on a project, relationships with communities could be damaged and jeopardise support in the long run. Plus, local leaders will have a better understanding of local ecosystems, cultural norms and a deeper understanding of the needs of both the people and environment where they operate. Development can’t take place ethically and sustainably without a deep cultural understanding of the context in which a project is operating.
In addition, no project is designed to run forever, which means that once external support is withdrawn, the members of the local community and local organisations need to be passionately invested in the development project to keep it running and making a positive impact.
Volunteering on a locally-led project: What does this mean for you?
As a volunteer on a GVI program, you’ll make an important contribution to the project of your choosing, and you will have the opportunity to work under the guidance of local community leaders.
You’ll work closely with members of the local community and experience their culture and perspectives, as well as the knowledge that your project is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), which are used as a framework for community development solutions.
Communities in action
Gap year volunteer programs are an incredible opportunity to meet different people and experience different cultures. Working alongside members of the local community and having the opportunity to share their perspectives and daily lives is a powerful experience. GVI strives to have a community-led approach in all of our projects, below are some of the locations where you can see this in action.
You’ll be working alongside vulnerable communities, offering support where they have identified that they need it. Working side-by-side with members of the local community, you’ll experience the diversity of local cultures and might even pick up a few words from one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.
In Nepal, you will get the opportunity to work closely with members of the local community towards more sustainable development and develop empowerment plans aimed at providing greater opportunities for the Nepali people.