A few weeks ago at the United Nations General Assembly, I was honored to speak at an event that launched the Movement for Community-led Development, a group of individuals and organizations committed to enhancing the power and capacity of communities to take charge of their own development. Country ownership is at the heart of MCC’s model, so it’s no surprise that MCC champions community-led development, where program ownership and accountability are concentrated at the local level.
In the poorest regions of Indonesia and the Philippines, MCC is helping fund community-driven development programs. At the UN event, I met a woman named Elsie Lomong-oy, who had traveled from a remote, indigenous village in Mountain Province, Philippines, to share her experience with community-driven development. She decided to serve as an unpaid volunteer because, as she said, “for the first time, an ordinary citizen like me can participate in making decisions about what we need, how we will implement the project we have chosen, and how we should maintain it.”
Through an MCC-funded program, Elsie’s community built 49 projects – from water systems to daycare centers to small roads and a footbridge. Significantly more was achieved with the community’s participation than could have been achieved by the local government alone. And they accomplished all of this in a more cost-effective and transparent way. Financial reports are posted and regular updates are provided at village meetings. “We always say that in a community-driven development approach, where you put the citizens at the front seat, you can never lose,” she said. “It’s very difficult to steal when the entire village knows not just how much money we have, but how it should be used. Today, government is not just an abstract idea. I can feel government. I know my government is listening to the people.”
The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the UN General Assembly was an important step toward a more peaceful and prosperous world. The 17 goals and 169 targets agreed to are breathtaking in their scope and ambition, but significant progress is achievable if we keep our focus on communities and their role in holding governments accountable.
“Today, government is not just an abstract idea. I can feel government. I know my government is listening to the people.”
Communities should not only be viewed at the nexus of our goals and targets, but should be approached and empowered as key designers and implementers. It is leaders like Elsie who remind us that the “how” of development is as important as the “what.”
Beneficiaries of MCC investments routinely share stories of how their lives have changed for the better. After a compact is completed, MCC funds independent evaluations of project impact, which can be found in our evaluation catalog.