Local priorities. Local resources.
Effective local development practice facilitates pathways for constituent leadership, establishing and reinforcing mechanisms to listen and respond to local priorities and catalyze resources. LINC’s Constituent-Driven Design & Evaluation (CDDE) methodology is utilized to understand the values, perceptions and priorities of local actors, helping to design, adapt and measure the effectiveness of local development programming in any given system. Taken in combination with tools such as social network analysis and PICKS, we are not only able to track relationships between local actors, but actually gain an understanding of constituent priorities, perceptions, and how development interventions can positively impact them. The CDDE approach is aligned with the project cycle, ensuring constituent voice in project design, establishing ongoing feedback loops, and utilized for impact evaluation and assessment of results.
The Four Pillars of CDDE
Systems-based Constituent Mapping: Complex systems include sets of interconnected constituents that form a complex whole. Whether intentional or not, international development programs engage and impact upon multiple systems and actors. Such systems may include, for example, food or health systems, systems of actors networked around a common objective, market systems, among others. CDDE constituent mapping techniques help us to see where local actors reside within particular systems of interest, gaining a better understanding of how they may be engaged and benefit from development programming. Typically conducted at the strategy or design phase of an activity, we work to identify and define the system, understand its dynamics and boundaries, and obtain preliminary data and visualizations of where constituents fit within it. Participatory techniques are utilized extensively throughout this process, including workshops, mapping exercises, 1:1 interviews, and focus groups.
Constituent Engagement: While it is ineffective to engage every development program constituent throughout activities, CDDE works to establish practical mechanisms and platforms for constituent voice stretching across the program cycle. One such method is engagement of representative leaders and groups that facilitate two-way communication and provide fair representation. Representatives can be individuals or organizations, depending on the needs of the development effort. Such leaders are oftentimes identified through systems mapping, vetted through utilization of social network analysis or PICKS, and subsequently engaged more formally by the development program. Collaboration with these representatives can take many forms, including more formal methods such as network establishment, information and awareness campaigns and opinion polling; or ones less formal such as regular meetings and check-ins.
Facilitating and Mobilizing Resources: Constituent-driven development leverages both the vision and resources of local actors to facilitate change. As program priorities increasingly reflect their own, and interventions are calibrated to their systems, local participation and resources are increasingly mobilized. CDDE facilitates local action and mobilizes resources through:
- Communications strategies and tools – Communications strategies serve to build interest among constituents and broader networks and systems. Context-appropriate communication tools help to ensure transparency of decision-making, and accountability of representative bodies.
- Transparent and open planning processes – CDDE encourages local stakeholders to set a shared vision of their long-term aspirations, engaging their networks to address their most pressing development needs.
- Balance of process and product – Constituent-driven development requires external facilitation to start and practice. Processes should be balanced with incentives in the form of results – often constituent prioritized projects.
- Constituent activation and momentum – This often requires an administrative lead, which could be an outside facilitator or a sub-set of the constituents themselves. Leaders keep constituents actively engaged, and provide incentives for continuation. Donors have tremendous convening power and should be using that power to bring stakeholders to the platform, but not to lead the discussion or overly influence the outcomes.
Monitoring Constituent Priorities and Impact: As development programs evolve, constituent priorities shift and evidence of impact is increasingly apparent. Depending on context and program need, CDDE leverages a number of techniques for ongoing assessment of emergent constituent priorities, and evaluation of the impact of program activities upon them. Filling-in the shortcoming inherent to many systems-level M&E approaches, these CDDE approaches assess and measure constituent values, perceptions and ongoing needs. Techniques utilized by CDDE for monitoring and evaluation include:
- Survey – Surveys can be undertaken at multiple levels, including individual constituents, household and community. Quasi-experimental methods apply a statistically significant and representative sample, measured against a control group of similar attributes and scale. Measured against a baseline undertaken at the outset of a program, changes observed over the course of the project yield highly reliable information to inform program calibration and eventual impact.
- Performance evaluation – Methods primarily composed of qualitative techniques such as interviews and focus groups with constituents, and direct observation. Performance evaluation can be conducted at multiple stages of a program to yield direct insight from constituents on program effectiveness and at start-up to define key performance monitoring indicators.
- Real-time constituent feedback – M&E systems built to purpose, incorporating multiple mechanisms for constituents to express needs, priorities, opinions and preferences. Feedback mechanisms are built to collect regular (usually monthly or ongoing) data from constituents in an easy to digest format, with data reviewed by project managers on an ongoing basis. Techniques may be low tech, incorporating methods such as post-training surveys, or high-tech, leveraging mobile phone technologies, hotlines, kiosks, and otherwise.