Counterpart's programs start with the community: in ninety-five percent of our projects, the first step is community mobilization.
Our mobilization objectives are four-fold:
- Promote community-driven development by ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice;
- Strengthen the planning process by supporting the creation of community-elected entities such as resource user groups, economic development councils, and community development committees;
- Enhance the credibility of local NGOs and governments as agents of positive change in their communities by building their capacity to jointly design community projects responsive to citizens’ needs;
- Ensure the sustainability of the process and its impacts by promoting partnership and mutual investment among the three institutional pillars of the community – NGOs, government and the private sector.
Counterpart’s community mobilization cycle begins with participatory assessment—bringing people together to identify and prioritize community development needs. Next it facilitates the development of concrete action plans to address those challenges. Counterpart facilitates the identification of community assets and resources that can be put to use, and also awards community action grants that make it easier for communities to get to work tackling obstacles they have highlighted.
This approach is asset-based, integrating core themes of the Appreciative Inquiry methodology, which promotes looking at problems as “challenges” and solutions as “opportunities” – allowing participants to look at successes to build upon rather than deficiencies to overcome.
Counterpart has implemented the mobilization process in all five Central Asian republics, Afghanistan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Poland, Ukraine, and Vietnam, resulting in documented advances in agricultural production, economic development planning and implementation, access to services like health, water, garbage collection and electricity. This approach has also led to improvements in community infrastructure includinghundreds of schools, roads, water delivery systems, health clinics and community centers.
Highlights and Results:
In Bulgaria, Counterpart’s Community Fund and Social Enterprise Program, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) led to the establishment of ten legally registered community foundations. These groups mobilized $619,774 by forming public-private partnerships, catalyzing corporate philanthropy, and generating financial and in-kind support from citizens and government. They also made use of Counterpart’s stimulus and matching grant program that channeled an additional $470,774 in matching funds. Seven years after the end of the project, these funds remain a permanent mechanism for community projects.
In Central Asia alone, Counterpart-trained NGOs and community facilitators mobilized 2,706 communities to participate in projects: More than half them enhanced social and economic infrastructure like health and sanitation, clean water and irrigation, agriculture and construction—improving living conditions and creating job opportunities. Nearly seventy percent of the projects were implemented in rural areas, and boasted a forty-six percent cost-share from communities. Overall, some 2,800 documented socio-economic impacts benefited more than 6.6 million people at the community level.
In Ethiopia, under the USAID-funded Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance, Counterpart’s community mobilization process led to the creation of permanent Community Committees in six Community Conservation Areas in the Central and Southern Rift Valley. Stakeholders collectively prioritized financial and human resource needs for biodiversity and natural resource management, and identified linkages with economic engines along the tourism value chain. These groups continue to plan, design and implement eco-tourism and handcraft production while conserving biodiversity—stimulating income and creating jobs.
In Iraq, under the USAID-funded Iraq Community Action Plan (I-CAP) program, Counterpart mobilized communities in war-torn Al Anbar Governorate—bringing all stakeholders including antagonistic factions together to assess and address priority infrastructure needs. Despite pervasive insecurity over the life of the project, Counterpart established and trained 51 democratic Community Action Groups which completed 76 Community Action Projects. Communities and governments stepped up by providing nearly twenty percent of the project costs in the form of labor, materials, equipment, and other local resources, and received more than $2.4 million in grant support from Counterpart. The projects rehabilitated key infrastructure including access roads, water/sanitation systems, primary and secondary schools, community health care clinics, and hospitals, benefitting more than 350,000 residents. They also created more than 7,700 short and long term jobs.
In Vietnam’s south-central Ninh Thuan Province, traditional slash-and- burn farming of the staple crop, maize, resulted in low productivity and chronic food shortage. In cooperation with the Thuan Bac District People’s Committee and with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Counterpart mobilized a cross-section of the community and trained local stakeholders in participatory facilitation skills, project design, implementation and monitoring. It also demonstrated environmentally-friendly Sloping Agriculture Land Technology to more than 300 subsistence farmers, established three communal nurseries, and created linkages to buyers in major consumer markets – resulting in improved productivity and long-term food security.