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There is now widespread consensus that development and humanitarian assistance needs to be more responsive to the needs and priorities of local actors and communities and embrace their ideas for how to address them. The world’s development and humanitarian challenges are vast and complex, but they are also inherently local. The same is true of the many opportunities to address these challenges. Experience has shown that local leadership over where, how, and why we collaborate is the route to greater equity, effectiveness, and sustainability.

USAID defines localization as the set of internal reforms, actions, and behavior changes that we are undertaking to ensure our work puts local actors in the lead, strengthens local systems, and is responsive to local communities. Informed by over a decade of experience, we are undertaking four lines of effort:

  1. Adapting our policies and programs to foster locally led development that is tied to each country’s unique political, social, cultural, economic, and environmental conditions, including through local systems practice and local capacity strengthening;
  2. Shifting power to local actors, including, with an inclusive development lens, those from marginalized and underrepresented groups, and promoting space for them to influence and exercise leadership over priority setting, activity design and implementation, and measuring and evaluating results;
  3. Channeling a larger portion of funding directly to local partners while ensuring accountability for the appropriate use of funds and achievement of development and humanitarian results; and
  4. Serving as a global advocate and thought leader, using our convening power, partnerships, voice, and other tools of development diplomacy to catalyze a broader shift toward locally led development.
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A USAID-supported “Whole System in the Room” approach encouraged entrepreneurial, private sector, and other stakeholders in a community in Zimbabwe to discuss the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Ecosystem.
A USAID-supported “Whole System in the Room” approach encouraged entrepreneurial, private sector, and other stakeholders in a community in Zimbabwe to discuss the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Ecosystem.
Doreen Hove/USAID
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In collaboration with USAID's Local Works initiative, a village in North Macedonia mobilized funds from local businesses and the diaspora to create an association that will improve the quality of life for local residents through community efforts such as this new park space.
In collaboration with USAID's Local Works initiative, a village in North Macedonia mobilized funds from local businesses and the diaspora to create an association that will improve the quality of life for local residents through community efforts such as this new park space.
Albiz Foundation

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USAID uses a variety of methods and metrics to capture several dimensions of localization and locally led development. These efforts are anchored in two interconnected, Agency-wide targets that Administrator Power announced in November 2021. Specifically, USAID will provide at least a quarter of our program funds directly to local partners by the end of FY 2025. And by 2030, fifty percent of our programming will place local communities in the lead to set priorities, codesign projects, drive implementation, or evaluate the impact of our programs. Recognizing the role national and subnational governments play in advancing many development objectives, USAID also encourages, tracks, and reports project-based assistance to governments. We will also improve how we track subawards to local actors. 

More details can be found here regarding our approach to measuring progress on localization.

To lay the groundwork for progress toward these targets and underpin changes in how we work, we are aligning our agency policies and strategies around localization objectives and developing new tools to facilitate greater engagement and partnerships with local actors, including: 

  • A new Policy Framework that reinforces the Agency’s commitment to working with local actors, and articulating how it will do so; 
  • An updated Acquisition and Assistance Strategy (coming soon); 
  • A revised Risk Appetite Statement to clarify the level and type of risk the Agency is willing to accept in pursuit of locally led development; 
  • A first-of-its-kind Local Capacity Strengthening Policy to establish Agency-wide principles centered around the priorities, know-how, and existing capacities of local organizations; 
  • Specific questions in the 2022-2026 Agency Learning Agenda to surface ideas for how best to engage with local partners and understand how these partnerships contribute to sustained development results; and 
  • WorkWithUSAID.org, an easy-to-use website that provides clear and accessible information in multiple languages on navigating how to work with us.

Related Resources:

  • On the margins of the December 2022 Effective Development Cooperation Summit, USAID and other bilateral donors committed to three actions to foster locally sustained change that is tied to each country’s unique context. Read the Joint Statement here.
  • USAID’s approach to Inclusive Development promotes the rights and inclusion of marginalized and under-represented groups. Intentional and proactive inclusion efforts help ensure localization efforts do not reinforce discrimination and unequal power structures. 
  • The “Exploring USAID Funding Opportunities” Quick Reference Guide explains where to find information regarding current and upcoming awards. 
  • The “How to Work with USAID” training series answers some of the most frequently asked questions about working with USAID.
  • USAID’s Co-Creation Guide aims to dispel common co-creation myths and provide inputs critical to designing and managing co-creation successfully. 
  • Local Works is the Agency’s flagship locally led development program. Unsolicited Solutions for Locally Led Development accepts applications for ideas to advance locally led development.
  • The New Partnerships Initiative helps the Agency reach its partnering potential by improving collaboration with new, nontraditional, and local actors.
  • Other Locally Led Development Initiatives represent a range of programs, opportunities, tools, and research that support local ownership and leadership throughout the development process.
  • USAID’s Centroamérica Local initiative empowers local organizations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to address the drivers of irregular migration to the United States. 

 

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