Stopping As Success: Planning for Success from Start to Exit

Stopping As Success

“Stopping As Success: planning for success from start to exit” is a USAID-funded research project that will look at responsible exit strategies of INGOs. The research consortium consists of Peace Direct, Search for Common Ground and CDA Collaborative Learning Projects.

Research Goals

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

The research will result in lessons and guidelines on responsible strategies in a context of locally-led development. Lessons will be drawn from examples where exit strategies were rooted in collaborative assessment of local context, priorities and capacities and formed a key part of initial programme design.

The research findings aim to influence attitudes especially for exits to be seen as a success because sustainable outcomes have been achieved or because continued intervention may only serve to distort local efforts.

We plan to examine approximately twenty cases of exits over the course of the next three years (2017-2020). These cases will represent different types and levels of exits, including the phasing out, phasing over and complete cutting off of development projects.

The research will examine examples of current and past exit strategies to draw on lessons learned from successes and failures. In particular, the research approach will include intentional prioritisation and inclusion of local researchers and local asset organisations to best inform learning about the impacts of closing out development projects and programmes.

Learning Partners

Project Funders

Select Publications

“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



Isabella Jean, Director of Collaborative Learning and Evaluation [email]

Kiely Barnard-Webster, Program Manager [email]

Grace Boone, Project Associate [email]