Local participation is fundamental to maximizing foreign assistance effectiveness. Development practitioners increasingly recognize the vital importance of including local voices and contributions as a cornerstone of the design of development projects. Project leadership should consult, and ideally partner, with diverse local actors in setting priorities, identifying problems, and designing objectives and activities. (Oxfam, 2016) This cannot happen without careful and equitable inclusion throughout all stages, but especially early on in program or activity design.
An important first step is taking the time to listen and appreciate the ideas and opinions of local people in development assisted countries. Foreign development practitioners cannot expect buy-in, local ownership, and long-term autonomous sustainability if their projects are not informed and designed based on the input of those in the best position to determine success. Listening to local development actors and potential recipients requires methods and tools to increase the likelihood that the process is valuable for all parties, produces useful information, and, most importantly, is grounded in mutual understanding, respect, and relationship building.
The goal of this guide is to provide development leaders the tools and methods, as well as a framework and plan, for engaging local people early in the project design process. There are a variety of methods and tools available to project leadership to assist with data collection and facilitation. In order for true change to occur, listening must become a fundamental part of practitioners’ work and development project design. (Carothers & Brechenmacher, 2014)