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USAID Contribution

Help USAID Create a New Local Systems Position Paper

Apr 23, 2024

As the Local Systems Framework approaches its ten-year anniversary, USAID is revisiting and refreshing our position on the importance of systems practice for building resilience and unlocking locally led change. We are looking for your input on this new Local Systems Position Paper. 

In her March 2023 speech introducing USAID’s new Policy Framework, Administrator Samantha Power made a succinct and compelling argument for the importance of systems thinking in an increasingly complex and unpredictable world: 

“Everything is connected to everything else it seems – you can’t stand up a strong health system if you're in economic turmoil. You can’t boost agricultural productivity if droughts and floods are routinely destroying your crops… you can’t promote inclusive growth if corrupt elites are siphoning off wealth while autocrats persecute marginalized or vocal populations.” 

The solutions to these and other development challenges far exceed the mandate of any single organization or institution. Truly sustainable change and resilience are a function and product of the health of the local system as a whole – the quality of the relationships between various actors in the system and the ability of those actors and relationships to adapt in response to changing circumstances. 

The Local Systems Framework acknowledges that “realizing these changes will take years and will be challenging to sustain in the face of demand for immediate results and [the] attraction of the tried-and-true.” And, indeed, while we have seen some progress, many of the barriers cited in the Local Systems Framework—such as a bias towards “safe” or status quo approaches, an emphasis on short-term and easily quantifiable results, and sector siloes—continue to hamper our efforts to adopt more locally led, systemic approaches. 

Building on the inspiring global momentum around locally led development and humanitarian action, USAID is bringing new energy and attention to these long-standing challenges. This new approach will be articulated in a position paper that the Agency aims to release later this year. The new position paper will unpack systems practice, address some of the persistent barriers that hamper systems thinking, and highlight practices and mindsets that can help development and humanitarian actors work in more systemic ways that embrace the world’s current complexity.

We would like your help to make this position paper as useful as possible. 

All of your thoughts and ideas are welcome. We are especially interested in the following themes:

  1. The ways you currently use systems practice and why it is important for your work.
  2. The most important practices or operational changes USAID can promote in the position paper.
  3. The core tenets, principles, or mindsets that should underpin effective systems practice for international development and humanitarian assistance.

Please send your ideas to [email protected] before May 31, 2024. 

The Local Systems Framework has helped advance the Agency’s work in significant ways over the last ten years. We look forward to working together to expand the reach and impact of systems practice even further.


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