Since the Millennium Development Goals of 2000, we have seen remarkable achievements in raising life expectancies, addressing global health crises, and reducing poverty worldwide. However, sometimes international aid is not as effective as we might wish with projects designed based on the donors’ priorities and timeline rather than the local community’s needs.
When I first visited Ghana, I saw some of these ‘donor-driven’ outcomes. A well-constructed library building that has been locked and empty, for four years, because no operational funds were provided. Another library with hundreds of donated books, all in German. Broken solar panels on schools, businesses, and wells that were damaged by wind, rains and dust. Without any repair funds or local training, the solar projects simply remain broken. Water purification projects that clog, break, or run dry. Recycling bins and ‘how to recycle’ murals made by international volunteers in a region where there is no recycling. In some small villages, you can find many of these projects, all with donor dedication signs, and all in varied states of disrepair and decay. This has a variety of unintended psychological impacts on communities that must look at these broken efforts every day, while their real needs go unmet.
Engage Globally uses a different model of development, referred to as ‘community-led’. In this model, local communities and community leaders meet and discuss their priorities and design plans for meeting their sustainable development goals. Outside partners provide the resources to enable local communities to implement their plans. These resources are generally a combination of funding and some capacity building, training, or technical assistance.
Local leadership and management of projects has many advantages including: