Local First: in practice
This section summarises a full-length study of models for locally led development projects, as part of the Local First initiative. Local First is an approach to international development assistance that looks first for the capacity within countries, before bringing in external expertise and resources. It recognises that much of this capacity is found outside central government, and understands that local people need to be at the centre of defining and driving how change happens in their own countries. Under its Local First initiative, Peace Direct has been researching practical approaches and partnership models that can be used by international organisations to work in a way that allows local people to lead in their own development.
This study addresses a fundamental problem of current aid practice. Because the sector focuses on the provision of external resources, it is dominated by donor agendas and often ignores existing capacities in recipient countries. This has some damaging and distorting consequences for local agency and ownership, and can lead to inappropriate and misconceived interventions that end up exacerbating the very problems it aims to solve.
In the approach here, ‘local’ means not only an implementing partner or receiver of aid, but an entity whose ideas, capacity and resources drive the process and are integral to its success. ‘Locally led’ is a multifarious model that encompasses more than how funds are allocated, or even whether frontline staff are nationals or expats. It is a relationship that aims to drive change through identifying and deploying latent capabilities, in which aid money is not the defining driver of what is done and how it is achieved.
This study aims to contribute to the growing recognition and development of locally led aid modalities and partnership models. By identifying good practice examples, Peace Direct hopes to contribute towards a shift in practice within the aid industry, whereby locally led approaches are prioritised. The study provides examples of partnership models between international agencies and local entities in the peacebuilding, development and humanitarian fields and it addresses four key challenges or themes in achieving locally led practice.