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Community Contribution

Who Are the Development Experts that Will Build Sustainable Self-Reliance?

Wende Skidmore DuFlon, Ángel Mario López

A small "early adopter" team took full advantage of the CLA approach that was dropped in their lap by USAID Policy, Planning and Learning Bureau in 2013. Team colleagues eagerly pursued new ways to program assistance that ensures sustainable development and self-reliance; they shared the theory of change that citizen voices are powerful means to guide, inspire and create lasting change, and that sustainable change begins with listening. Their big question was how to leverage this power into USAID culture, structures and processes.

The context for CLA adoption was a confluence of currents including: Guatemala's emerging focus on their chronic malnutrition crisis; launch of USG's Feed the Future Initiative; internal and external collaboration for geographic-focused, integrated programming to reduce poverty/chronic malnutrition; a USAID audience research for development communications study among 16 stakeholder groups to provide a technical evidence base for decision-making (pioneering complementary qualitative and quantitative methodologies); and, supportive leadership.

The CLA approach intrigued the team as a best practice and its adoption began with audience research that evolved into CLA workshops for USAID staff and implementing partners. At the workshops, participants learned to use/apply study results in each element of the Program Cycle by organically incorporating citizen needs, aspirations and perspectives. During these workshops, the playing field of development experts shifted to include stakeholder citizen voice as an active player. Citizens previously considered to be #beneficiaries became #developmentpartners #SociosEnDesarrollo, thus bringing the team closer to leveraging citizen voice and active participation in co-creation and co-implementation of sustainable development and self-reliance.

CLA is now installed in Spanish videos and print materials, Activity Design Mission Order, Program Office CLA position, LocalWorks grant, the first Indigenous Engagement Plan, and formative research in indigenous languages.

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