What is it?“Achieving and sustaining any development outcome depends on the contributions of multiple and interconnected actors...Each set of interconnected actors whose collective actions produce a particular outcome is a local system.” ~ USAID Local Systems Framework Development is an inherently collaborative process and so engaging with stakeholders is essential when designing and implementing effective development strategies and activities. By engaging across technical and support teams, with other USAID units, or with local communities, host governments, and partners we can identify areas of shared interest and potential cooperation. This helps us avoid duplication of effort, share what does and does not work, and develop innovative approaches to shared development challenges. When we don't invest in collaboration, we create information silos, miss opportunities, and lack critical perspectives that can make the difference between success and failure in our development interventions.
Guidance and Tools
Need help getting started?
Consider using the CLA Maturity Tool to explore how your team engages external stakeholders.
- Make sure your engagement efforts are resourced. You can’t engage stakeholders if you don’t make the time to do so.To be successful, ensure that you have devoted the appropriate resources (time and human) to your work. If you need help, visit the Resourcing CLA cluster.
- Effective engagement takes trust. Stakeholders have to know that we value their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Building these relationships takes dedicated time, but it allows greater focus on the end development goal. Trusting relationships also enable us to connect with a broader network to increase situational awareness and contextual understanding that can further inform program implementation in many ways.
- Facilitate, rather than create, development. Genuine engagement and collaboration requires taking a facilitative approach—one that prioritizes interventions led by and among existing actors at strategic points within a system rather than direct interventions provided by a development outsider. In many programs, using community-driven, participatory approaches throughout the Program Cycle will increase local ownership and, most likely, sustainability of results.
- Remember USAID’s convening power. USAID and its partners—as well as other donors and key development actors—need to program influence as well as dollars. USAID staff have always influenced other actors through persuasion—for example, by persuading government ministers to effect policy reform, or persuading other donors to adopt specific technical approaches or agree to a particular distribution of responsibilities. USAID staff, along with its partners, use influence in thought leadership forums as well, sharing knowledge, promising practices, and innovations that others can adapt and apply.
Making the Case
Based on analysis of CLA case competition entries, we know that collaboration leverages resources for collective benefit by helping development actors identify comparative advantages and jointly achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. The cases also demonstrate that engagement with local stakeholders leads to local ownership and better development outcomes. Academic and grey literature supports these findings, emphasizing the need for approaches that are tailored to the local context and delivered by local stakeholders.