Lentfer: Community-based Groups Key to Development Revolution

    What’s missing in the entire debate on aid effectiveness? Local, community-based organizations, an expert says.

    These community-based groups, which directly serve poor families, may, in fact, drive the “true revolution” in the international development sector, according to Jennifer Lentfer, founder of the website How-matters.org, which aims to “magnify compassion and empathy” within development programs.

    Local indigenous organizations are well poised to scale up development practices “that even the most comprehensive donor-controlled, government-endorsed, project-based funding may not be able to accomplish,” she argues.

    “While local groups may lack the accountability mechanisms and sophisticated processes that would make them more recognizable or esteemed among other development actors, they have a range of capacities and competencies such as their astute resourcefulness in mobilizing local resources, downward accountability, flexibility, and responsiveness to communities’ needs,” Lentfer adds.

    Local organizations’ day-to-day interaction with impoverished communities gives them more expertise on how poor people cope with development challenges. They are also “better positioned” to boost the resilience of poor communities by promoting local ownership, and mobilizing community strengths and resources, among others, according to Lentfer.

    She argues: “While aid agencies and development practitioners continue to struggle to make such concepts as ‘community participation’ and ‘local empowerment’ real, effective local groups naturally embody such ideas by virtue of their rootedness, existing relationships, and proximity to those they serve.”

    These local groups make up for gaps in the government and international aid sectors, Lentfer adds.

    About the author

    • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

      As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.