Stopping As Success: Transitioning to Locally Led Development

We published a book! 

What Transformation Takes: Evidence of Responsible INGO Transitions to Locally Led Development Around the World takes readers on a journey to examine responsible transitions from international non-governmental organizations to locally led entities.

The book is a compilation of the 19 case studies from the SAS program. The case studies are organized by various themes including partnerships and financial sustainability, with additional insight from the SAS program, including practical lessons for how shifts in international development paradigms can lead to more sustainable, effective and culture- and conflict-sensitive partnerships, contributing to increased local leadership.

Project Overview

Stopping As Success: Transitioning to Locally Led Development (SAS) is a 3-year USAID funded collaborative learning project which aims to provide positive examples and guidance for how international development actors can foster locally led development through responsible transitions out of projects or relationships with partners. SAS conducted 20 case studies of responsible transition processes and developed 20+ practical tools and resources to accompany INGOs, NGOs/CSOs, and donors actively going through or planning for a transition.

The primary goal of this research is to examine transition strategies in peacebuilding and development programs, and bring greater awareness to the international community of the multiple dynamics at play when transitioning a program. Transitions to local entities can be seen as a success because sustainable outcomes have been achieved or because continued intervention may only serve to distort local efforts.

For more information on the SAS project, please refer to the SAS Project Methodology document.

Figure 1.0: Nairobi Regional Evidence Review Participants, September 2019

Key Lessons

SAS looked at both organizational and programmatic transitions, and identified the following eight key takeaways:

  1. How INGOs enter matters just as much as how they leave: partnerships based on solidarity and trust from the beginning allow for smoother transitions.
  2. A joint vision for transition from the outset enables accountability.
  3. INGOs that promote local leadership are able to transition in a more sustainable way.
  4. To support locally led development, INGOs need to address existing power imbalances and engage in mutual transformationTransition plans that remain flexible and adaptive support local ownership.
  5. Transition plans that remain flexible and adaptive support local ownership.
  6. Periods of overlap (when INGOs and new local entities operate simultaneously) can help to minimize the disruption of transition periods and foster financial sustainability.
  7. Smaller, more flexible funding sources and other types of resource transfer are invaluable for successful transitions.
  8. Transition is as much a beginning as it is an ending: post-transition relationships can continue in many different forms.

SAS has sought to contribute to a limited but growing body of evidence on how INGO transitions can promote locally led development. The project has shown that successful, responsible transitions address both technical and procedural aspects alongside relational and partnership-based ones. A procedurally perfect transition that does not address fundamental issues of power and legitimacy is incomplete.

For more information on SAS’s key takeaways, read the SAS Synthesis Report.

Learning Partners

Project Funders

Select Publications

For more SAS resources, including case studies, practical tools, blog posts, and other research findings, please visit the Stopping As Success Resource Library.

“Incentives for aid providers to work themselves out of a job — to support people so that they do not need external help (though not all needs may be met) — fade in relation to incentives to survive, grow, and continue to deliver.” – Time to Listen

Why Stopping As Success Matters

CDA’s book Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid critiques the externally driven aid system and calls for a shift to a collaborative aid model where the aid sector gradually diminishes its role and dominance:

Listen to the voices of local development actors and CSOs featured in the book:

“The [international] intervention to restore law and order after the violence took the steam out of domestic efforts to do things. Support for civil society weakened because people felt they didn’t have to do it now. Everyone is glad that happened, but there was a downside to it because it took the stuffing out of homegrown attempts to deal with the insurgency and we are still trying to get over this.”


Solomon Islands

“If funding will be discontinued, donors should inform you early so you can plan for it. Otherwise the people are upset.  Organizations should have an exit strategy and give one year’s notice.”

A Palestinian NGO director


“Exit and phase out strategies need to be discussed with local government and other relevant organizations from the start. It should be part of the capacity building process for local government units to plan for sustainability.”

A local NGO program director


Our People

Grace Boone, Program Manager, Reimagining Development [email]

Ruth Rhoads Allen, President and Chief Collaboration Officer [email]