What does ownership look like? How do you create a sense of ownership? How do you get actors within the system to drive their own change? For me, I think these are fundamental questions that development projects should be asking themselves.
From working within and interacting with people in this sector for the past month, I have observed and seen the aftermath of numerous development projects. Many of these approaches were riddled with handouts and a one size fits all solutions leading to a mentality that development projects come and go, as does their money and their solutions.
But what if a project decides to take a different approach; can it stick? Likely these players have been exposed to development projects that have been functioning in a certain way for many years and are currently embedded in a system that continues to perpetuate a lack of ownership. This hinges on the idea: how much power do the players have over the system vs. the system on the players?
So from all these questions and variables, what do you see? What can you make sense of in defining a way forward? For me, it appears that long-term change is about impacting the pressure points (players) that hold the right amount of power; in way such that the change is driven by them and not by outside actors. “Light-touch”, an idea that I introduced in one of my first posts – What is market facilitation and why does it matter for smallholder farmers?., is fundamental to this idea of creating ownership. Light-touch is defined by remaining outside the system; not creating dependency but stimulating innovation.
So if creating an enabling environment for ownership can be achieved through a light touch approach, projects must: continually question their approach, assess its impact and choose a way forward that leaves any solution owned by the system and not outside actors that temporarily inject themselves into the system. Ownership of the system over the change is crucial to its adoption, validity and sustainability.
Now it’s time for you to share your thoughts. What triggers an idea? What key assumptions are being made? How do you think that development projects need to adjust their approaches? What is the way forward?