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Community foundation: Villages as implementing partners

by Thant Zin

ActionAid Myanmar is committed to make the communities we work with become our implementing partners. We believe this will further improve both ownership over and efficiency of our programmes.

Ever since ActionAid established a presence in Myanmar we have implemented our programmes in partnership with local organisations and striven to involve community members to the highest possible degree in all activities –from problem analysis to the execution of development action plans. We value the knowledge and wisdom of communities and local organisations and their role in the struggle against poverty.

“We find, that poverty often remains because the causes are not well understood by the  developmentactors as every villages has its own unique problems and thus their own unique solutions. The only way to find the right solution is to be in the village and have the community members make their own problem analysis,”said Shihab Uddin Ahamad, country director of ActionAid Myanmar.

ActionAid has now committed to take the community foundation to the next level by encouraging the communities we work with to form their own village based organisations that will function as our implementing partners.

“If ActionAid or partner staff lead the implementation like spoon feeding, the community members do not get the chance to prove that they can do it themselves. Based on my experience through the last decade in this country, I am confident that the majority of community members are very sincere and engaged and have the capacity to implement their own projects if we believe in them and support them,”said Shihab Uddin Ahamad.

Due to ActionAid’s innovative Fellowship approach and our bottom-up planning methodology called the ”Village Book” we have always been employing very less staff. The Fellows, young, energetic people elected by their own communities, have received trainings from ActionAid and built the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to initiate participatory development processes in their villages. The outcome of these processes would be a Village Book that could be used as a community action plan, a baseline, an advocacy tool etc.

ActionAid has let the communities handle considerable funding already and tested a range of transparency and accountability tools such as social audit, procurement committees, and due diligence processes at the community level.

“Some villages we work with have already managed huge funds through women’s advisory groups or other development committees. And they do a better job than any NGO can do. NGOs will implement a project, but the villagers will have a much more ambitious and holistic approach,”said Shihab Uddin Ahamad.

The community foundation will also reduce the risk of aid dependency, since the communities will not have to rely on outsiders to solve their problems for them. This will give them confidence and in the future they might raise their own funds independently of ActionAid.

“The community members will no longer be beneficiaries or target groups –they will be drivers of their own change process and managing their own development projects,”said Shihab Uddin Ahamad.

ActionAid will also facilitate communities coming together around large scale advocacy projects or accessing bigger funds for common issues like electricity, railways, roads or dams.