The Principles of Locally Led Development

Speeches Shim

The Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment’s Office of Local Sustainability (E3/LS) leads the Agency’s work in supporting local actors - people, communities, civil society, the private sector, academia, and partner country governments - to take the lead in defining and addressing their own development challenges. The Office’s efforts align with the Agency’s Journey to Self-Reliance, the USAID Policy Framework, the Local Systems Framework, the 5Rs Framework in the Program Cycle, and ADS 201 “Program Cycle Operational Policy,” all of which promote sustainability through local ownership, resilience, and innovation.  The Journey to Self-Reliance begins with locally led development, and these five overarching principles inform E3/LS’ work in this regard:

  1. Listen to Local Actors. With humility, actively listen to people, communities, civil society, the private sector, academia, and the host country government.  Give special attention to local marginalized populations, including the poorest of the poor, women, girls, indigenous groups, and other marginalized communities.  Create mutually beneficial feedback loops between USAID and local actors to learn and adapt together.
  2. Understand Local Systems. Identify key local actors, understand relationships and interdependencies, and support local actors in developing and leading their own development solutions that positively transform systems.  Recognize the roles that donor organizations like USAID play in shaping development outcomes, including unexpected or unintended outcomes.  Respect and work to strengthen existing positive networks and relationships by building upon local initiatives, ideas, resources, and capacity.
  3. Be Patient. It takes time to understand local systems, build relationships, and support enduring positive systemic change.  Take the time to understand power dynamics among local actors, understand the root causes of development challenges, and focus on achieving long-term, sustainable outcomes.
  4. Support Local Leadership. Shift priority-setting, decision-making, leadership, and power to local actors.  Support local actors in identifying, achieving, and measuring their own priorities.  Align with local priorities, leverage local resources, and increase locally led implementation to sustain results over time
  5. Experiment, Learn, and Share. Consistent with USAID’s Risk-Appetite Statement, the Acquisition and Assistance Strategy, and commitment to Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting, take thoughtful programmatic risks and experiment with innovative approaches.  Measure what matters to local actors - and measure whether and how locally led collaboration results in systemic change, including unexpected outcomes.  Share learning so that the Agency, other donors, partner organizations, and local actors all benefit from our investments.

For more information, please contact E3/LS at