A Challenge: Create Significant, Positive, and Lasting Change

August 19, 2014 | Nicole Goddard and Jasmine Walovitch

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Any intervention, including peacebuilding, development and humanitarian aid, should align with the priorities that local people have for their own futures. It is vital that we notice the voices of those we dedicated to help. CDA’s Listening Program collected the insights of nearly 6,000 people in over 20 different countries on the receiving end of aid programs about how aid efforts work and what people desire from assistance. This is what they heard.

Expectations of the Receiving End: Significant, Positive, and Lasting Change

People on the receiving end of international aid expect that international assistance will lead to changes in their societies that are not only positive, but also significant and lasting.


People said that they want and expect three types of Significant, Positive and Lasting changes:

1. Economic Betterment. People want and expect international assistance to improve their current or future economic prospects. They judge aid’s impacts depending on whether or not it increases the likelihood of a secure livelihood. Recipients assess the benefits of assets provided through aid – roads, water, training, seeds, tools, boats, and even loans – according to whether they lead to greater economic security.

2. Improved Political and Security Conditions. People also look for, and hope for, aid providers to have positive impacts on their governance structures and on their physical safety. They welcome assistance when it: supports new ways of engaging with their government, supports their efforts to reduce mistrust and conflicts, improves their safety, and when it supports them in gaining voice vis-à-vis their government.

3. A Sense of Solidarity, Colleagueship, and Support. People want a sense of connectedness to people in other parts of the world. They welcome the expressions of solidarity that international assistance brings. When aid providers discuss problems and solutions with them and suggest new ideas or new ways of doing things, they see these as expressions of caring and colleagueship. (Originally published in Time to Listen)

A Proposal for the Aid System: Achieving Significant, Positive, and Lasting Change

How to reach Significant, Positive and Lasting Change

How to reach Significant, Positive and Lasting Change. Click to enlarge.

Development work must take a strategic and flexible approach, take account of the factors operating in favor of change and those working against it, and be attentive to the potential for unintended negative impacts.

Humanitarian programs should, at a minimum, not undermine development or have negative impacts on the contexts in which they operate. Humanitarian work, by its nature, is short-term. Even so, often, humanitarians find themselves working in the midst of protracted crises. Despite the term of their work, humanitarians should, when possible, strive to design programs that can contribute to longer-term positive changes.

Peace work should strive to contribute to large-scale, long-term peace. Peacebuilding should also take into account the broader development goals of people in the society and its potential unintended impacts on existing conflicts. In order to do this peacebuilding work must be strategic. In this field, being strategic means understanding the drivers of conflict and ensuring programs’ relevance by designing interventions that address these conflict drivers. 

Back to You: Significant, Positive, and Lasting Change and the Future of Your Context

To achieve significant, positive and lasting change you must analyze the context you are working in, identify which piece of your vision for a positive future you will contribute to, and lay out a strategy to get from the current context to your vision for the future.

Be collaborative. Ensure that what you are working towards is appropriate for the context and desired by local people by collaborating with them to define a shared vision for the future.

Be clear. The more explicit your vision, the more accurately you can design your program to contribute to it.

About the author(s)

By Nicole Goddard, Associate Director and Jasmine Walovitch, Communications Associate, CDA


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