Getting to “@” — Case Study of Corporate Advocacy for Email Standards

It’s hard for some of us to remember a time before email. Email has actually been around for a long time, but in the early days it was not generally based on the internet standards. Each dial-up network (AOL, MCIMail, Compuserve, ATTMail, Envoy100  and individual Unix computer networks) had its own system of addressing, and these did not talk to one another. If you wanted to reach a Compuserve email box you needed to use a Compuserve account, and use an address like 12345.678. MCI preferred numbers that looked like phone numbers. There were also standards like Novell MHS and UUCP that exchanged mail between local networks – but not to each other. What was missing was a single, universal standard – a “business card” standard that will allow one to publish their email address, and it would work on all systems.

For example, the 1990 membership directory of the Electronic Mail Association, its 86 members listed their Email addresses in a total of 24 different, non-compatible formats. The most popular format? No listing at all! (32) Followed by MCIMail (26),
Compuserve (10), Internet (8). Six hearty members dedicated the four lines it required to use the “standard” X.400 format. Even Unix networks – the heart of the internet – were using something called “bang addressing” over uucp where you had to know the full pathway of the network to reach someone !bigcomputer!littlecomputer!username.

There was already the basis for such a system – “@” sign domain addressing invented by Ray Tomlinson but it was not being used. There a much more complex standard – the X400 standard – that also wasn’t being used.

To address this, I launched a letter-writing (fax!) campaign to computer magazines in January 1990, urging publishers to adopt the @ sign standard when publishing email addresses (even though most email companies were not prepared to handle it.) This generated a flurry of supportive emails to my MCIMail account.

The next step was to find the email addresses of all the decision makers in the various email companies, and develop a listserv that would actually reach them (as they were not on the internet). My office used Novell MHS internally, so I created a software gateway program “UGate” to connect MHS to the internet and to be able to dial up and exchange messages with other non-internet providers. (The Hunger Project earned $50,000 per year in $200 per copy shareware fees for Ugate from 1990 through 1997).

With Ugate and my list of emails, I began lobbying the chief decision makers in March 1990, including Internet pioneer Vint Cerf. By mid-1991, most of the proprietary companies were exchanging email directly on the internet with addresses such as

The lesson from this? Even something as obvious and commercially advantageous as universal email addresses faces market-based obstacles. Like every advocacy campaign, winning required (a) making the case in a clear, non-confrontational way, (b) raising the flag, (c) finding the champions and the decision makers and (d) driving the conversation day after day towards something that works for everyone.


Decentralization: The Key to Local Development

Fiscal Decentralization and Development

Countries around the world are increasingly recognizing the impact fiscal decentralization can have on both national and community level development. Fiscal decentralization is characterized by a shift in financial responsibility from a central government to a local municipal government. Decentralization is a key element for development because it puts power back into the hands of community members. When local communities have the autonomy to control their own resource allocation and spending, they have a greater ability to fill the needs of their specific community than their centralized government. They tend to be more efficient at delivering public goods and services, which only increases the effectiveness of their local governance system. Development should happen at the community level, driven by the people who will keep their communities functioning and productive.

According to the World Bank (WB), decentralization can occur through several mechanisms, including local self-financing, co-financing or co-production, local taxes, monetary transfers from central governments, and/or municipal borrowing. Most importantly, measuring local fiscal autonomy and management must be included when evaluating a country’s level of decentralization . Decentralization goes beyond expenditure and resource allocation data; it must be considered in the context of who makes the decisions and at what level public goods are being delivered.

Unfortunately, most decentralization studies fail to address local fiscal autonomy. Many countries have limited to no data on the decision-making power of local government bodies compared to their central counterparts. Establishing a standard way to measure progress worldwide is the next crucial step forward in decentralization efforts.

Measuring Fiscal Decentralization

Decentralization data that accounts for local fiscal autonomy is difficult to find. However, several thorough sources of data capture not only countries’ fiscal autonomy data, but also dissect how this information relates to important global development outcomes.

In a report released in 2012 titled “How Close is Your Government to Its People?” the World Bank measures fiscal decentralization by: vertical fiscal gap, taxation autonomy, unconditional transfers to local government, expenditure autonomy, and borrowing freedom. These indicators allow countries to be profiled on a holistic level, providing accurate and usable data. Some of the top fiscally decentralized countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, USA, and Denmark, while the bottom countries are Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Oman, and Samoa. This report also includes measures of political and administrative decentralization, as well as the meaning and measurement of the relative importance of local government.

Another great example of a measurement system comes from The Local Public Sector Initiative, a multi-organization collaborative project that determines how decentralization is contributing to individual countries’ efforts to achieve global development outcomes. The surveys include a variety of metrics, ranging from “Basic Country Information” to “Assignment of Functions & Expenditure Responsibilities”. Each country has a detailed profile of health and education expenditure background, sectoral decentralization, and development indicators. The researchers included the survey template and instructions alongside their completed country surveys, enabling an understanding of their framework. The survey accommodates countries with varying government structures, allowing for up to four levels of government to be evaluated. The twenty nine currently completed country surveys are a great start to a global standard of measuring fiscal decentralization.

The Next Steps in Decentralizing for Development

The most important next step in achieving fiscal decentralization is a steadfast commitment from communities, policy makers, and countries as a whole to make decentralization a reality. International efforts are not being widely adopted, and community members must advocate for their policy maker’s commitment to fiscal decentralization. For example, only nine countries in the African Union have signed the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance, and Local Development to date, delaying it being put into force. If a major international body like the African Union committed to fiscal decentralization, we would see large scale dramatic change in community-level development. Countries worldwide must make a commitment to decentralize their spending, balance their power and resources between all levels of government, and put autonomy into the hands of local community leaders. These efforts will pay off in achieving not only the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, but also prosperity for communities at all levels.


Local Public Sector Initiative country-level data can be viewed here.

Featured image courtesy of The Hunger Project, United Kingdom.



How Are We Doing on the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were conceived as a vision for the post-2015 agenda. They are an action plan to continue the work the Millennium Development Goals started. We are six months into the SDGs. Do we know what’s been accomplished thus far? How are we doing?

You can see for yourself how well the world’s progress on the SDGs. Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation, has constructed an SDG index. The SDG Index has compiled information for 149 of the 193 United Nations member countries. Each country has updates for each SDG that pertains to it. While there are updates for every country, there is no guarantee that all the data is completely up to date or correctly classified.


There is a digital report with the data and country dashboards. Additionally, each SDG has additional data points and insights for OECD countries. There is also an interactive map that displays a ranking for each country and SDG. Each country is given a score based on how they’re progressing, as judged by the official indicators.

This Index is not sanctioned by the United Nations; instead, these reports, indexes, and data sets are meant to be preliminary points for governments and other stakeholders. The SDG Index is a tool that NGOs, governments, and citizens can use to gauge priorities and challenges in their country.

A suggested next step for the SDG Index would be breaking this information down by district, when and if possible. A more geographically detailed report of information would be advantageous for local actors.

You can learn more about the SDG Index and report here and see more information here.

DC Launch of 2016 Access to Nutrition Index

Last week, the Access to Nutrition Foundation Executive Director Inge Kauer presented the most recent Access to Nutrition Index (ATNI) for 2016 at the InterAction office in Washington, DC.

The Access to Nutrition Foundation is an independent nonprofit based in the Netherlands, with the objective of assessing and contributing to the improvement of the private sector’s methods of providing global nutrition. ATNI’s founding principle is centered on the fact that the world’s leading food and beverage companies can play a leading role in improving poor nutrition and related diseases. By examining the companies’ practices, governance structure, marketing, and commitments, ATNI assigns an index number to the major food and beverage companies, providing them with an incentive to improve before the next index is released.

The first Access to Nutrition Index was released in 2013, as a tool major companies can use to benchmark their nutrition practices progress. Overall, 22 of the top companies were assessed to determine their levels of social, commercial and financial responsibility within their industry.

According to this year’s index, one in three people in the world are undernourished or overweight. Over the course of the next ten years, nutrition issues are projected to significantly increase. Obesity and diet-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers are at epidemic rates, affecting countries of all income levels. Recent years has shown a positive trend in corporations’ interest in engaging better with their consumers, who demand healthier products and higher levels of accountability.

The 2016 Index has additionally included a pilot study, ranking all the leading producers of breastmilk substitutes (BMS). This addition to the index addresses a controversial issue in on the nutrition agenda. ATNI’s intention was to create a transparent and accountable way to measure how corporations contribute to child rearing in developing countries. Companies were assessed based on alignment with the 1981 International Code of Marketing and of Breast-milk Substitutes.

Corporations were measured for the index based on seven indicators:

  1. Governance (12.5%) – corporate strategy, governance and management
  2. Products (25%) – formulation of appropriate products
  3. Accessibility (20%) – delivering affordable, available products
  4. Marketing (20%) – responsible marketing policies, compliance and spending
  5. Lifestyles (2.5%) – support for healthy diets and active lifestyles
  6. Labeling (15%) – informative labeling and appropriate use of health and nutrition claims
  7. Engagement (5%) – engagement with governments, policymakers and stakeholders

Based on the 2016 Index, Unilever scored highest for the ATNI overall ranking. ATNI commended Unilever for successfully integrating nutrition strategy into their core business model, with a specific emphasis on undernutrition. According to the Index, Unilever dedicated its future strategy towards a healthier profiling system, with a comprehensive response to undernutrition.

Other top performers included Nestlé, Danone, Mondelez, and Mars. The main conclusions of the 2016 Index were that progress has been made, but these large food and beverage corporations are slow to change their role in the fight for better global nutrition.


Nestlé topped the BMS Index, but ATNI found that none of the four F&B companies and the two pharmaceutical companies included in the BMS Index were fully compliant with the International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes (The Code) or the many World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions reinforcing The Code. As recommendations, ATNI encourages all companies to overhaul their marketing systems, except when forbidden by national laws. In independent case studies conducted by Westat in Vietnam and Indonesia, many instances of non-compliance were revealed, offering much room for improvement.

ATNIBMSATNI has now reached global recognition for their work as the first index to benchmark companies to facilitate growth and improvement. Since the first index in 2013, companies have increased their engagement with the research process, which highlights a positive trend towards improved policies and procedures.

Full details of the companies’ performances can be found on individual scorecards at

Top 5 Takeaways from the SDSN Guidebook “Getting Started With The SDGs”

Let the work begin! The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a Global Initiative of the United Nations, has released a guidebook  “Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) to help all stakeholders understand and implement the Post-2015 development agenda. The year 2016 marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the official launch of the Post-2015 SDGs to be achieved by year 2030. Listed below are key takeaways from the guidebook on how to embark on this collective agenda efficiently:

1. Execute Goal-Based Planning  

Having a goal and target framework like the SDGs is beneficial because it provides a shared narrative of the complex, yet important challenges that must be addressed and understood. For example, the guidebook explains that evidence from the MDGs dealing with public health shows that communities were able to mobilize around time-bound goals.

“The shared focus on time-bound quantitative goals will spur greater mobilization, promote innovation, and strengthen collaboration within epistemic communities or networks of expertise and practice.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 9)

2. Implement Locally-Focused Development

For the SDGs to be  implemented at the local level, local authorities and communities must take responsibility for leading initiatives. For example The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy  unites 5,000 to 15,000 people in a cluster of villages to create an “epicenter” where communities are mobilized to lead their own initiatives around their basic needs.

Screenshot 2016-02-12 at 11.24.51 AM
Source: Gender-Focused, Community-Led Developing in Rural Africa: The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy

 “A bottom-up approach can be successful in achieving transformational sustainable pathways through direct contact with communities, which informs national-level policy decisions” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg.11)

To learn more about these strategies and alike, check out the Movement for Community-Led Development that was recently launched at a side event for the 70th Session of the UN’s General Assembly.

3. Prioritize the implementation of the SDGs

These 17 audacious, yet achievable goals and 169 targets provide a framework for future development initiatives. As a side note the UN’s Inter-agency Expert Group (IAEG) on SDG Indicators plans to confirm most indicators for the 169 targets by  March 2016 for use by Member States and development actors. The Hunger Project and its advocacy partners such as CONCERN, World Vision, Save the Children and Action Against Hunger have been advocating for specific indicators to accurately measure community advancements in nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Given this feat, stakeholders should take stock of where their respective country, sector, or community stands in regard to the 17 SDGs. As shown in Table 1 below The Global Reporting Initiative, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Global Compact has developed a set of key performance indicators with which businesses, as well as, civil society, faith-based groups,and  knowledge institutions can utilize to determine their contribution to each of the 17 SDGs.

“A quick ‘temperature check’ of the key dimensions of sustainable development, including economic development, social inclusion, and sustainable environmental management, can help develop a shared understanding of priorities for implementation.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 13)

Table 1: Indicators for a quick assessment of a country or region’s starting position with regards to sustainable development
Screenshot 2016-02-08 at 4.15.38 PM
Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg .14

4. Prepare to Monitor Progress on SDGs and Strengthen Statistical Systems

The SDGs cover a wide range of cross-sector challenges which present a need for demographic, economic, social, and environmental data. For data to be useful in influencing policy and decision-making, it must be timely. Table 2 depicts key data sources for monitoring the SDGs to build and modernize the statistical systems that capture the data.

“As one impressive example [of geo-referenced data], the Nigerian Senior Special Advisor to the President on the MDGs, with support from the Earth Institute’s Sustainable Engineering Laboratory, developed the Nigeria MDG Information System, an online interactive data platform. Using this system, all government health and education facilities as well as water access points were mapped across Nigeria within a mere two months” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 28)

Table 2. A toolkit of data instruments for monitoring the SDGS
Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 12.20.00 PM
Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 27

5. Build Goal-Based Public-Private Partnerships

Evidence from the MDGs suggests that a diverse range of partnerships can emerge from international collaboration such as bilateral partnerships between states and combinations of public, private, and multilateral actors. It is key to note that effective partnerships are not centrally planned and they do not require one actor to oversee all operations. Each sector has a variety of capabilities, therefore the partnerships will vary depending on the engagement. To that regard, Figure 2 illustrates seven core processes identified by the SDSN that depicts the basis of goal-based partnerships.

“As outlined in the document Goal-based Investment Partnerships: Lessons for the Addis FfD Conference[3.14], each sector has unique features and requirements for success, so there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to building global public-private partnerships.” (Getting Started with the SDGs, pg. 29)

Figure 2. Core components of goal-based partnerships
Screenshot 2016-02-09 at 5.54.27 PM
Source: Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: Guidebook for Stakeholders, pg. 29


Great progress has been achieved through the MDGs, however  much more has to be done. Now in the era of the  Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals there is a call for more innovate approaches to finishing the fight …for people, prosperity and the planet”  by 2030.  This is a call for building the capacity within local communities to transform the world we live in, from within, starting with the strategies in these takeaways.

UN MDG Report 2015

The UN recently released its final MDG Report 2015, which documents the fifteen-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set out in the millennium declaration. Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, claimed the findings have “produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history,” but was careful to acknowledge the gaps that still remain. Below are the top ten points to be aware of. (Click the photo to watch the video of the launch)Screenshot 2015-07-09 at 10.22.26 AM

  1. Progress made in an unfinished agenda. This theme is repeated throughout the entire structure of the report. For example, while the literacy rate among youth aged 15-24 increased globally from 83% to 91%, there is still a lot of work to be done. It cautions that once a goal is reached in one region, progress does not simply stop: it must continue, as well as accelerate, in the post-2015 development agenda and the implementation of the SDGs.
  2. Those living in poverty worldwide decreased by 50%. This figure is an overwhelmingly positive step in the fight against global poverty, as the number dropped from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. Despite this improvement, the number is still too high and eradicating poverty and hunger is at the center of the post-2015 agenda. All the other goals will depend and build on this outcome.
  3. Gender equality still has a long way to go. This global struggle is a slow and ongoing process; while several regions have reached gender parities in primary education, disparities still persist at higher levels. The gender gap is based on several issues, such as gender-based discrimination, violence, and unequal participation in private and public decision-making. Female empowerment and education form one of the pillars of THP, so the promotion of gender equality remains an important focus in future advocacy efforts and the SDGs.
  4. Child mortality rates have decreased by more than 50%. The global under-five mortality rate dropped from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births, a significant achievement, but many of the world’s youngest and those in the most vulnerable situations still perish from preventable causes, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria. There also needs to be an additional focus on the first day, week, and month of a child’s life, as these stages are the most critical for survival
  5. Despite improvements in maternal survival, hundreds of women die every day during pregnancy or from childbirth-related complications, most of which are preventable. Additionally, only 56% of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel, compared with 87% in urban areas. There is a lack of access and knowledge of proven health-care interventions, such as antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth. Reductions in newborn and maternal mortality rates go hand-in-hand and while they have their own separate issues, they can be solved together with improved antenatal and postnatal maternal care
  6. Investments in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria have brought unprecedented results. Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, while tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013. Yet recent outbreaks such as the spread of Ebola provide global lessons for stopping future epidemics and highlight the country and global preparedness needed to avoid them.
  7. The global target for drinking water has been met 5 years ahead of schedule, but the target for sanitation has been missed. Increased efforts for universal access to water and sanitation are vital as they have such an overarching effect on maternal health, child mortality rates, nutrition, and diarrhoea. 2.4 billion people are still using unimproved sanitation facilities, including 946 million people who are still practising open defecation. 147 countries met the drinking water target, 95 countries met the sanitation target, and 77 met both.
  8. Conflicts remain the biggest threat to human development. They are also the greatest obstacle to progress in achieving the MDGs, and likely will be for the SDGs as well. Fragile and conflict-affected countries typically have the highest poverty rates.
  9. Funding towards development has recently plateaued. It increased significantly in the first decade of the new millennium, but efforts will need to be strengthened and renewed to be firmly on track for the post-2015 agenda.
  10. Not all goals were met, but they were all successful. No matter what specific targets and indicators were originally set, the MDGs were ambitious and optimistic, just like the SDGs will be. But that doesn’t mean that they were unsuccessful or unrealistic; the MDGs served their purpose and reached goals that seemed nearly impossible 15 years ago. In the post-2015 development agenda, we should be equally ambitious and forward-thinking, but even more committed, in implementing the SDGs.

Click here to read the report in full.

FfD Analysis – Preliminary

(This piece was largely informed by today’s MFAN/Brookings event – many thanks to the organizers for a very useful discussion!)

ffd3_logo_700x323Washington DC, June 15, 2015:  Last month, the organizers of the upcoming Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) in Addis Ababa released a revised draft outcome document, which they are redrafting this week. FfD3 is a critical milestone in finalizing the Sustainable Development Goals in September.

The Hunger Project is hosting a side event at FfD3 on Wednesday, July 15th at 1:15PM at the Intercontinental Hotel with CONCERN WorldWide. In light of the draft outcome document and discussions around financing for implementation, we will  emphasize local partnerships and gender-specific, community-led approaches that  we have found to be the most critical investments to restore empowerment to the hungriest and most impoverished people to control their own lives and destinies.

One central transformation at FfD3 is Domestic Resource Mobilization. While official aid is still seen as important, it is seen as most important in building each country’s financial self-reliance: its ability to reduce corruption, and raise its own tax revenues and spend them wisely. A particular area of concern is strengthening the ability of the world to halt tax avoidance (para 20) by multi-national corporations that may be generating wealth in lower-income country but evading paying any taxes. This significantly reduces national revenue that can be allocated for development expenditures.

Here is our top-10 list, based on the current draft. Half are elements we would hate to lose in the upcoming negotiations, and half are areas where greater attention could be useful.

Five Points we love and would hate to lose

  1. Start with women: The draft wisely includes a strong commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in its very first paragraph, and in para 6 calls for gender mainstreaming in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, and social policies and agrees to take concrete policy actions to ensure women’s equal rights, access and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy. In para 12 it promises to substantially increase public investment in ending hunger, explicitly including promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in that context. Para 18 calls for “social infrastructure and policies to enable women’s full participation in the economy.” These sections seek to meet the inalienable and inherent human rights of women as well as boost economy in placing development initiatives into the hands and empowerment of half of the world’s population.
  2. Ending hunger by empowering small-scale producers: The draft explicitly recognizes that ending hunger “will lead to rich payoffs across the SDGs.” . Para 12 recognizes that ending hunger depends on increasing incomes through higher smallholder productivity, and Para 14 therein calls for greater financial access to micro enterprises. This is fairly revolutionary, as it points to a bottom-up,  approach (the argument that economic growth leads to ending hunger). This bottom-up perspective has been bolstered by an IMF Report, released June 15, which states that “increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”
  3. Engage Local Governments: Para 31 is an explicit commitment to “scale up international cooperation to strengthen capacity” of local governments to achieve sustainability, “particularly in areas of infrastructure development, local taxation, sectorial finance and debt issuance and management, including access to domestic bond markets.” This paragraph has expanded quite significantly from the earlier draft, now listing a dozen other areas of capacity building.
  4. Integrated Approach: The draft commits to a “holistic strategy” (para 2) “integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development” (para 10). It commits to delivering social protection and essential public services for all including spending targets on health, education and WASH. Ideally this will be implemented through coordination between ministries and multisectoral approaches.
  5. Data for the People: The focus on data and transparency has expanded a great deal in this draft, and it starts (Para 115) with emphasizing the role of data for smart decision-making, including at the local level. We specifically applaud this empowerment role of data, especially as  the draft goes on to make many statements about the due need for accountability.

Five points that ought to be stronger

  1. Youth Employment: The draft calls for developing a global strategy for youth employment by 2020. This is a very weak response to a huge and urgent economic challenge, as well as to the complex challenge of seizing the opportunity of the “demographic dividend” of the current youth bulge.
  2. Social Capital: Nowhere in the document is the recognition that people’s own energies  are an enormous resource for achieving the SDGs. Utmost capacity goes beyond allocated funds and paid positions; it includes sweat equity and pro bono assistance.
  3. Conditions for inclusive economic growth: Private business activity, investment and innovation are identified as major drivers of inclusive economic growth. While this is sometimes the case, it often has the opposite effect: increasing inequality. The document is missing an important opportunity to describe necessary policies and principles of practice that will make private economic growth at least sufficiently “inclusive.”
  4. Civil Society: While civil society appears in various lists of the “usual suspects”, nowhere does the draft identify the distinct roles that civil society plays in development (such as, for example, in points 6-8 above!). This includes catalyzing social accountability mechanisms to hold local governments to account, building effective partnerships between citizens and their local government officials, and capacity building through training and leadership skill development.
  5. Bottom-up Data: While the Post-2015 agenda called for a data revolution, the sections on data are not very revolutionary. The call to strengthen national statistical systems is more of a  solid 19th century recommendation at a time when 21st century technology offers huge new possibilities for aggregating lower-cost, higher-quality community-level data rather than attempting to disaggregate expensive, slow, national-level surveys and evidence.


Some Characteristics of World Bank Experience with Community-Driven Development (CDD)

By the 1990s, economic failure and rural neglect in many countries were attributed to excessive centralization and top-down approaches.  While Community-driven Development (CDD) emerged as a response to this concern, it is not panacea nor a one-size fits all and many factors contribute to its success or failure. The centralization-decentralization dilemma remains a struggle about power and the perspective that there is a finite amount of economic and social resources.  The following touches upon what CDD is and its history, when and why it works, and the challenges surrounding the approach.


Community driven development (CDD) is a phrase that has had different meanings for different development agencies, ranging from consultation to empowerment (see Table 1 below).  CDD is an approach that emphasizes community control over planning decisions and investment resources.  CDD programs evolved out of an attempt to reverse traditional  “top-down”  service delivery  by  letting  communities  identify  and implement small-scale investments among several sectors. CDDs vary enormously, depending on country  contexts, government champions, and project task teams but the approach has been typically (although not always) used in one or the other of three contexts:

  • situations of fragility and/or post-conflict;
  • financial and economic crises; or
  • in middle-income countries where government bureaucracy and local administrations have failed to meet the needs of the poor and excluded.

The purpose of participatory programs is to enhance the involvement of the poor and the marginalized in community-led decision-making bodies to give citizens greater say in decisions that affect their lives. Community-driven development refers to projects in which communities, functioning outside a formal system of government, are given funds that they manage to implement interventions they have identified (Mansuri and Rao, 2013).

Devolving resources to communities required the development of new disbursement, procurement, and accountability mechanisms. In this respect, CDD by definition must rely on community empowerment to plan and execute sub-projects according to the community-defined priorities. Along this continuum,  Local and community driven development (LCDD) is not a project; it is an approach that aims to empower both communities and local governments with the resources and authority to use them flexibly, thus taking control of their development.  Empowering means the expansion of assets and capabilities of poor people to participate in, negotiate with, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives. It means giving people access to voice and information, greater social inclusion and participation, greater accountability, and organizational strength (Binswanger-Mkhize, de Regt, and Spector, 2010).

Table 1  Timeline of Development Approaches

Indicator 19050s 1960s 1970s-1980s 1990s 2000 2005
Development approach Centralized, Decentralized Sectoral, technology-led, green revolution, irrigation development Special area or target group, ADP, and IRDP, NGOs and private sector CBD, SF and SAP CDD LCDD
Community Involvement Minimal Consultation Participation   ⟶⟶⟶⟶⟶ Empowerment

Source: Binswanger-Mkhize, de Regt, and Spector, 2010; and this author’s additions.

Legend:  ADP: area development program; IRDP: integrated rural development program; NGO: nongovernmental organization; CBD: community-based development; SF: social fund; SAP, social action program; CDD, community driven development; LCDD: local and community driven development.

CDD by the Numbers over time.  During Wolfensohn’s presidency 1995 to 2005, Mr. Wolfensohn was personally convinced that community decentralized approaches yielded better outcomes than top-down centralized.  He ordered a review of Bank lending experience and created a Bank-wide CDD working group to come up with clear definitions of CDD approaches and to review the portfolio of CDD lending.  Between FY 2000 and FY 2008, $16 billion was lent for 637 operations that contained elements of the CDD approach, or about 9 percent of total lending of the World Bank Group. For IDA lending, this percentage was higher about 16 percent.  According to a World Bank 2005 review entitled The Effectiveness of World Bank Support for Community Based and -Driven Development, during 1989 to 2003, the share of Bank projects with CDD components grew to 25 percent.  Over time, the results of social funds and CDD operations had better satisfactory outcomes and quality of supervision than Bank-wide averages.   In Wong, 2012, the paper states that the World Bank has supported 400 CDD projects in 94 countries, valued at almost $30 billion.  In Mansuri and Rao, 2013, the paper states that over the past decade, the World Bank has allocated almost $85 billion to local participatory development.

How do CDDs figure into the World Bank organization?  Key staff using or analysing the CDD approach work at the center of the World  Bank in the Social Development Department, Social Development Network created in approximately 1997.  Most Task Team Leaders who take CDD projects to the World Bank Board of Directors and are in charge of their implementation, disbursement and supervision are in the Human Development or Social Sector Divisions of Six Country Regions throughout the Bank, which include: Africa, East Asia and Pacific, European and Central Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia (not all regions have CDD projects).

Conceptual Framework for CDD.  Development policy that uses participatory processes needs to be informed by a thoughtful diagnosis of potential civil society failures, so that policy makers can clearly understand the tradeoffs involved in devolving decisions to local communities and can identify potential ways of repairing such failures.  Market and government failures are now reasonably well understood. Policy makers are less likely to assume markets will work perfectly or that governments can provide effective solutions to market failures. The policy literature is rife with solutions to market and government failures that assume that groups of people—village communities, urban neighborhood associations, school councils, water user groups—will always work toward the common interest.  Rarely is much thought given to the possibility of “civil society failure.” Organizing groups of people to solve market and government failures is itself subject to problems of coordination, asymmetric information, and pervasive inequality.  Civil society failure at the local level can be thought of as a situation in which groups that live in geographic proximity are unable to act collectively to reach a feasible and preferable outcome. It includes coordinated actions that are inefficient—or efficient but welfare reducing on average. (Mansuri and Rao, 2013)

The Internal Evaluation Group (IEG) is charged with evaluating the activities of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Development Association (IDA) projects of the World Bank).  In 2005, it undertook an evaluation of social funds—one of the early types of community-driven development—and looked at the period from fiscal 1987 to fiscal 2000 and at the results available for the 98 social funds in 58 countries worth a total of $3.5 billion.  The evaluation found that 96 percent of closed  social funds had satisfactory outcomes against 71 percent for all Bank projects.  Social Funds worked especially well in post-conflict situations such as Cambodia and Nicaragua. IEG rated institutional development as substantial in 65 percent of projects (better than 36 percent for all Bank projects). Social funds demonstrated that they could help build the capacity of local governments, communities, and NGOs.  Their effectiveness was attributed to their autonomy from the line ministries of central governments.  Sustainability is likely for only 43 percent of projects against 51 percent for all Bank projects.

The design of CDD programs has evolved over the last two decades, with varying levels of decision-making authority (Wong, 2012).  Thinking of local development policy as occurring at the intersection of market, government, and civil society failures increases appreciation of context. Such interactions are conditioned by culture, politics, and social structure, and vary from place to place. A policy that works in one country, or even one municipality, may fail in another.   Factors to consider:

Country’s political system and context matter a great deal.  In democracies, electoral incentives shape participatory interventions.  Stable democracies allow stable trajectories of decentralization.  They have an affinity for empowered participation functioning in the presence of strong civic institutions.  At the national level, nationalist ideologies—the manner in which the state (colonial and postcolonial) has created and propagated identity—can create symbolic public goods that facilitate collective action.

History matters: Policy and  institutional reform—education systems, the judiciary, the media, and efforts at social inclusion—influence government responsiveness to civic mobilization.  Some countries have a long history of organic civic participation, developed in the struggles for independence from colonial rule or against the rule of entrenched elites. Such social movements have given legitimacy to civic activists and created a culture that facilitates civic mobilization. A history of organic participation creates a community of peer educator and an enabling environment within which social entrepreneurs can spark participatory innovations.

Social, economic, demographic, and cultural contexts matter: The nature and extent of social and economic inequality and the composition and diversity of groups affect induced and organic participation. Inequality and heterogeneity affect the cultures and norms of cooperation that evolve within a community. These norms have a bearing on collective action and on the role of local leaders.

Geography matters. Remoteness from more developed areas, difficult terrain, and harsh weather conditions can increase vulnerability, leading to weaker development outcomes. Both social heterogeneity and geography have a bearing on the local cooperative infrastructure—the community’s capacity for collective action.  If a village has a long history of successfully managing common property resources, that capacity can be drawn upon.

Lessons for success include:

  • Strong political leadership to decentralization and empowerment is essential;
  • Committed country leader and donors need to be opportunists, seizing occasions;
  • Successful scale-ups put money in the hands of communities to harness their latent capacity through learning-by-doing, supplemented by capacity building;
  • Successful scale-ups must have sound technical design (Binswanger-Mkhize, de Regt, Spector, 2010)

Local participation tends to work well when projects are based on well-thought out designs, facilitated by a responsive center, adequately and sustainably funded, and conditioned by a culture of learning by doing and where projects ensure that:

  • Structures allow for flexible, long-term engagement;
  • Design and impact evaluations are informed by political, social, and economic analysis;
  • Monitoring, using cost-effective tools for reporting, is a priority;
  • Facilitator feedback, as well as participatory monitoring and redress systems, are created; and
  • Honest feedback where failure is tolerated and innovation can take place.  (Mansuri and Rao 2013)

Cautionary lessons from history:

  • While empowering civic groups may lead to good outcomes, it is not clear that inducing civic empowerment is always superior to a market-based strategy or a strategy that strengthens the role of central bureaucrats. Policy makers need to keep this in mind as they consider how to harness the power of communities;  
  • CDD projects can be driven by sector specialists who do not necessarily see the institutional, social, and economic policy environment;
  • Governments are not always willing to devolve resources, power, or responsibility to communities or local governments.
  • The decision-making black box.  Impact evaluations tend to focus on outcomes and outputs, and communities expressed satisfaction with the programs and services in general but understanding the decision-making process in the allocation of resources and whether or not they are participatory or are they reinforcing established patronage systems has not been determined.  Why are some subprojects chosen and not others?  How to traditional power holders in the community view these CDD programs and their mechanisms for decision making?
  • Sustainability and social capital building and governance spillover requires training and capacity building of reform-minded local leaders to improve community ownership and buy-in.  Scaling-up can take as long as 15 years requiring a long-term commitment from donors, governments, and community leaders.
  • Financing can be provided through multi sectoral, ministry channels, block grants, district level resources, independent auditors/corruption.  Several CDD programs allocate community block grant amounts per village, municipality or area.  The grant amounts are determined by criteria, such as level of poverty, remoteness, number of villages per municipality, and/or population.  Often, later stages of CDD programs are supplemented with additional financing (AF) to keep programs sustainable.

Scaling-up feeds off of this idea of success.  The core philosophical underpinning of well-functioning, successful CDD are the values, elements, overall processes, and goals to adapt to and within the local context without undermining the universal philosophical underpinnings.

Few Scaling-up successes because:

  • The institutional setting may be hostile to CDD, vested interests, central government, competing NGOs.  Laws and regulations may not allow money to be disbursed directly to communities.  Central government may not allow local governments or communities provide their own education and/or primary health or to levy user fees or taxes.The social environment may deprive wom
  • Minorities of voice—Ethnic, religious and class conflict may undermine real participation by all.
  • Some CDD islands of success are not replicable because like many “boutiques,” they are too costly for the masses.   Where political resistance is strong, scaling up should not be attempted as the risks are too high.
  • Participatory interventions work best when they are supported by a responsive state.

Impact Evaluations

There are a minuscule number of CDDs that have benefited from a rigorous impact evaluation.  Out of 400 active CDD programs and 25 years of implementation, there are only 17 or so impact evaluations available at this point.  Technical expertise is one reason as they must be designed at the outset of the project implementation and this expertise is often lacking in local contexts.  More research and resources are needed to learn from the world’s experience from CDDs to date.


Hans Binswanger-Mkhize, de Regt, Jacomina P. and Stephen Spector, 2010, Local and Community Driven Development: Moving to Scale in Theory and Practice, Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

Mansuri, G. and V. Rao, 2013.  Localizing Development: Does Participation Work?
Wong, Susan, What Have Been the Impacts of World Bank Community-Driven Development Programs?, 2012. CDD Impact Evaluation Review and Operational and Research Implications, The Social Development Department, Sustainable Development Network, Washington, DC: World Bank.

Evidence for Integrated Development

Screenshot 2015-04-22 at 1.02.34 PMFHI360 has conducted the first phase of a program to gather the evidence on the pros-and-cons of integrated approaches to development. In this first phase, they published a report that reviews existing studies.

Of the 25 program types, 13 produced mostly positive findings; 9 produced mostly mixed findings; and 3 suggest a neutral or unknown effect.

The study provides three recommendations for future programs: better systematic evaluation design, more nuanced outcome evaluations (as simply compiling standard sector indicators don’t necessarily tell the whole story) and better selection of comparison groups, as most of the studies compare their integrated approach to no intervention at all, where a more useful comparison might be to single-sector programs.

Our perspective on the Global Nutrition Report

2014 Global Nutrition Report CoverBackground: Nutrition is a huge and difficult challenge, requiring convergent action on many fronts: agriculture, health, WASH, education and – most importantly – gender equality and female empowerment. Those championing this action have been held back by the lack of timely data — until now. In the aftermath of the the 2013 Nutrition for Growth summit in London, civil society pressed for publication of a Global Nutrition Report to help hold countries accountable for their commitments, and now we have it. Lawrence Haddad has led an Independent Expert Group in preparing this first report, and everyone committed to ending world hunger should be familiar with it.

Purpose of this note: Here are a number of points particularly relevant to The Hunger Project’s advocacy.

  1. We strongly endorse the top 10 messages of the report (see page 71-72).
  2. The Post-2015 Agenda should be more ambitious on nutrition. Current drafts ratify most of the 2012 World Health Assembly (WHA) goals, which are not particularly ambitious (40% reduction in stunting by 2025) and are inconsistent with the Zero Goal philosophy of the SDGs.
  3. Gender-specific good news from India: Maharashtra, one of the richest states in India, reduced stunting from 36.5 percent to 24 percent from 2005-2006 to 2012. Improvements in women’s lives was key: “the determinants that improved the most were the age of mother at first birth, maternal under-weight, maternal literacy, coverage of antenatal visit, delivery in the presence of birth attendants, child feeding practices and access to ICDS (the Integrated Child Development Scheme).
  4. Malnutrition affects us all. Both undernutrition and obesity have terrible health and economic impacts, and both co-exist in most countries. We are all in this together. The report calls this the “quintessential 21st century challenge.”
  5. Five THP countries are not on course to meet a single WHA target: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mozambique. On track for one target are: Ethiopia, India, Malawi, Mexico and Senegal. For two: Peru and Uganda.
  6. More attention is needed on participation and local governance. The report mentions decentralization as a challenge for national accountability and points to promising experience in Indonesia and Guatemala, but The Hunger Project sees it as key to effective implementation. More in-depth study of how this can best be achieved would be useful, particularly how communities can build their own capacity and measure and track their own progress. The report points out that “the impact of [participatory] mechanisms on provision of nutrition services has not been empirically evaluated.”
  7. Importance of going to scale. Improving society-wide conditions requires society-wide action, not small projects. Governments and civil society groups need to work together on a campaign footing to ensure that clear, consistent information reaches everyone. Educating local-level leaders to be nutrition champions who understand the linkages to WASH and gender needs to be a top priority.

Top 10 Messages from the GNR:

  1. People with good nutrition are key to sustainable development.
  2. We need to commit to improving nutrition faster and build this goal into the Sustainable Development Goal targets for 2030.
  3. The world is currently not on course to meet the global nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly, but many countries are making good progress in the target indicators.
  4. Dealing with different, overlapping forms of malnutrition is the “new normal.”
  5. We need to extend coverage of nutrition-specific programs to more of the people who need them.
  6. A greater share of investments to improve the underlying determinants of nutrition should be designed to have a larger impact on nutritional outcomes.
  7. More must be done to hold donors, countries, and agencies accountable for meeting their commitments to improve nutrition.
  8. Tracking spending on nutrition is currently challenging, making it difficult to hold responsible parties accountable.
  9. Nutrition needs a data revolution.
  10. National nutrition champions need to be recognized, supported, and expanded in number.