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Community Contribution

Toward a Community-Led Approach to Building Resilience in South Sudan

Shannon Sarbo

Since its independence in 2011, South Sudan’s resilience capacities have been sorely tested. USAID assistance has helped meet immediate needs, though its ultimate goal is to strengthen the foundation for a more self-reliant South Sudan. Putting communities in the driver’s seat after decades of donor dependence, however, is challenging: Communities are unaccustomed to addressing their own challenges, and implementing partners are often more comfortable using top-down approaches.

In 2021, when USAID asked Policy LINK to shift its focus from providing backbone support to the Partnership for Resilience and Recovery (PfRR) to working in five of the 13 counties encompassing USAID’s Resilience Focus Zones (RFZ), Policy LINK saw an opportunity to develop a more community-led approach to building resilience. It did so using a collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) approach. Policy LINK collaborated with stakeholders, drawing on trusting relationships and networks with community members, local and traditional authorities, and implementing partners. Through pause and reflect sessions, Policy LINK learned what elements of its approach were working well and which elements needed refining. Policy LINK adapted – developing a community-led approach to building resilience – and continues to test and refine it throughout the RFZ.

Although evaluative efforts are just beginning, Policy LINK has already seen positive outcomes from using this more community-led approach to building resilience. Community members say the approach has heightened their sense of agency, implementing partners are increasingly applying the approach, and Policy LINK staff are more committed than ever to generating and sharing evidence on what they have learned.

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