Mainstreaming community-driven development approach into government policy: Roles of stakeholders

 By Dr. Olumide Ephraim OLAJIDE, PhD

The word Community” is so easy to say. The word itself connects us with each other. It describes an experience so common that we never really take time to explain it. It seems so simple, so natural, and so human. Unfortunately, what a community is and its role in the lives of people in diverse societies has led to the downfall of many well-intended “community” efforts. Adding precision to our understanding of community driven development (CDD) can help us to identify, understand, and strengthen our communities for development therefore, “Community is the Answer”



Experience has shown that when given clear and transparent rules, access to information, appropriate capacity, and financial support, community people can effectively organize themselves to identify community priorities and address local problems by working in partnership with governments and other supportive institutions to build small-scale infrastructure and deliver basic services. Therefore, citizen participation in development and leadership is not an imposition of our times. It is as old as creation itself. The nature of citizen participation in the socio-economic, cultural, political processes and promotion of safer world affect our lives and the terms and conditions under which this participation takes place have been a key concern for global development. The spiritual, intellectual and material needs for survival, protection and development are the key issues to citizen participation in the decision-making process and germane to development, therefore, Community-Driven Development (CDD) therefore operates on these principles of transparency, participation, demand-responsiveness, greater downward accountability, and enhanced local capacity. The idea of Community Driven Development (CDD) should be understood as a liberating process aimed at justice, self-reliance, and economic growth. It is essentially a community centred and people’s initiative approach in which the poor and the oppressed are both the active agents, the initiators, implementers and the beneficiaries of the development. This means that we empowered the marginalized so they can best utilize the opportunities at their disposal for development through Community Driven Development (CDD) approach. CDD is not new to Nigerians and Africans in general. Community people do come together to farms in order to increase agricultural productivity and boost the gross national product. In traditional Nigerian societies, it was not unusual for one to call for help from his or her kinsmen, age groups or clan members and other relatives in finding solutions to once problem or in resolving conflict. Therefore, coming together was seen as a way of making work easier and more achievable. This implies that the success of an individual can be seen as the success of all in the community. This interdependent spirit is summarized by Mbiti (1976) when he says; “I am because we are, and since we are therefore I am.”

Community-driven development (CDD) is a development approach that makes the community people the owners of developmental processes in their communities which make them have control over resources and decision making of their life. The underlying assumptions of CDD are that communities are the best judges of how their lives and livelihoods can be improved and, if provided with adequate resources and information, they can organize themselves to provide for their immediate needs. Community Driven Development is motivated by the trust in people and hence it advocates people changing their own environment as a powerful force for development treating poor people as assets and partners in the development process (Naido and Finn, 2001)

Dongier, 2002 assert that Community Driven Development is responsive to local demands, inclusive, and more cost-effective compared to centrally-led developmental efforts. CDD can also be supported by strengthening, financing, and facilitating community access to information, and promoting an enabling environment through which policy and reforms can take place.






The World Bank recognizes that CDD is an important instrument for effective poverty-reduction and sustainable development strategy. The Bank has supported CDD across a range of low to middle-income and conflict-affected countries to respond to a variety of urgent needs including water supply and sanitation, rural access roads, school and health clinic construction, nutrition programs for mothers and infants, and support for micro-enterprises.

Strategies for Community Driven Development

Develop cultural competent

A culturally competent person is able to identify and develop an understanding of the unique aspects of the different communities with which they work. This can be in the form of customs, linguistic backgrounds, social norms, religious beliefs, history, economics, gender roles, ethnicity, and age. It is an active process that develops the more you spend time in different places. Being culturally competent means that you are able to empathize with a worldview that is different from your own and be able to adapt to and sometimes even adopt it. You seek to understand instead of only being understood. You celebrate the differences in culture instead of expecting things to be done the same way they would be back home. The more competent you become the easier it is to contribute to projects that are culturally sustainable.





Understanding Cultural Sustainability

Many people who work in development forget to ask if a project they are working on is culturally sustainable. Foreign aid workers visit a community and see something they might not understand and decide the people there are struggling. They think their job is to fix a perceived problem and introduce new technology, education, or social outreach programs without understanding why a community is experiencing that problem or being aware of the cultural implications of what they are trying to accomplish.  This results in organizations spending time and money to fix something that is either not broken or introducing projects that would not work in that particular community. So what is a culturally sustainable project? It’s collaborating with local community members to implement projects that will be accepted by the larger community because it fits into their cultural context. You will accomplish this if you’ve developed cultural competency, listened and learned from local knowledge, and practiced humility by knowing that your contribution is a small part of a much bigger project.

Practice Humility

While it is important to be proud of the work you do in international development, some people get caught up and act like they are a saviour to the people. Community-led development is not about foreigners going to a place where people are incapable of helping themselves, providing services from their home country and believing that it will instantly transform the community so they have all the comforts that the foreigner believes are essential because it is what they are used to. Instead community-led development is a collaborative effort and should be initiated by locals who understand the implications that the project will have on the larger community. Exercising humility leads to building friendships because you acknowledge that the work you do has value because it is contributing to a project with people who are often more capable than you to implement the project effectively and sustainably, not because you are providing aid to a people that cannot help themselves. Take the “you” out of a project and learn to recognize the goals of the community.

Understand How to Support Community Goals

While a person might spend weeks, months, and sometimes even years working in a certain village or town, 99% of people will eventually go home or on to another project somewhere else. This leads some people to believe that the work they do might not have a long term effect. Those who have learned to be culturally competent and recognize the importance of cultural sustainability know that the impact of their work is a result of the greater community’s goals and it does indeed take a village. A project is most effective when a community identifies their own issues and goals and takes the lead on implementing a project. We as foreigners have the privilege of learning from local experts and as a result we should ask what the community needs instead of trying to take the lead. Our role is to be a helpful friend who supports local partners to achieve goals that they have already identified and begun to work on.



Importance of Community Driven Development

  • Community Driven Development is an efficient and effective mechanism for poverty reduction, it has the potential to occur simultaneously in a very large number of communities, thus achieving far-reaching poverty reduction impact.
  • It builds poor communities social capital, and give them greater voice both in their community and with government entities.
  • Experience has shown that CDD can enhance sustainability and make poverty reduction efforts more responsive to community demand.
  • It creates an enabling environment for community efforts to flourish, ranging from building more participatory, citizen-oriented planning of local investment priorities to subcontracting with Community based organizations(CBOs) for the provision of goods and services for which CBOs have comparative advantages;
  • It brings government closer to the people, increasing accountability and transparency, as well as building bonds of trust; provide long-term recurrent cost financing within a framework of fiscal decentralization and intergovernmental fiscal flows, thereby creating a local funding base for CDD.
  • It helps balance competing needs and demands in allocating resources across diverse communities.
  • It strengthens community voice and participation in local government decision making. Local or municipal governments are more likely to be responsive, accountable, and transparent in relationships with their constituents if there are mechanisms through which CBOs can express their priorities and concerns and monitor local government processes.
  • It invests in capacity building at local and municipal government levels. To support CDD effectively on a large scale, local governments need to have access to qualified personnel and to finance, planning, and monitoring systems. Capacity can be built internally or can be accessed via partnerships and contracting arrangements with private sector firms or NGOs capable of supporting local and municipal governments.
  • It forges links between CBOs and local governments. Given proper incentives, NGOs and firms can facilitate development of lasting links between communities and local governments. This is important to help ensure community access to resources available from local governments, help build accountability of local governments toward poor communities, and ensure long-term sustainability.






Community Driven Development Policy

Policy has been identifying by scholars and development practitioners as one of the important instrument of development. It is a statement of intent or commitments which spell out the details of what government, or individual intend to achieve in the particular area of concern. Policy may apply to government, private sector organization and groups as well as individuals. According to Roux (2002) define policy as authoritative statements made by legitimate public institution about the way in which they propose to deal with policy problem and direction of programmes. This implies that policy is deliberate efforts aimed at solving identify problems. It is a plan or course of action by a government, political party or business designed to influence and determine decisions, actions and other matters. Given the above Roux (2002) conclude that policy is a proposed course of action of government, or guidelines to follow to reach specific goals and objectives and is continuously subject to the effects of environmental changes and influence. Policy can be legislated or guideline that govern how laws should be put in operation. In view of the above definitions and relation to community development, community driven development policy can be defined as the deliberate and conscious efforts of the government and other stakeholders to address the developmental challenges underpinning the poor communities in Nigeria. CDD policy refers to those guidelines formulated strictly for the development of poor communities in Nigeria. Countries of the world, both developed and third world countries have put in place policies and programmes to usher in development especially in poor communities. CDD Policy is the pivotal tool employed by nations of the world in addressing developmental challenges in every facet of human life, rural, economic and agricultural development. He further identifies abject poverty; mass illiteracy; unsanitized environment; lack of clean water supply; lack of access roads; unavailability of health care facilities; improper and inadequate housing; poor lighting particular at night; large family sizes; small income; defeatist/fatalist attitude; small land parcel ownership; outmoded ineffective farming implement among other disturbing indices as the major characteristics of poor communities. The result if unchecked will lead to poverty, thereby further depleting human potential resources for development. In line with the above, Scholars have defined CDD policy for development differently. For instance, World Bank (2000), looked at CDD policy for development as strategies and policies designed at improving the economic and social life of a specific group of people –rural poor or the process of improving the quality of life and economic wellbeing of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated area. Raheem 2014, citing Obinne in Ogidefa (2010) perceived CDD policy for development as creating and widening opportunities for individuals to realize their full potential through education and sharing in decision making and action which affect their lives. He also viewed it as efforts to increase rural output and create employment opportunities while eliminating fundamental (or extreme) cases of poverty, diseases and ignorance. Therefore, combining all the essential elements of development together CDD policy for Development can be described as the integrated approach to food production as well as physical, social and institutional infrastructural provisions with an ultimate goal of bringing about both quantitative and qualitative changes which result into improved living standard of the poor and rural population. In developing countries, such as Nigeria, rural development encompasses all efforts targeted at improving the fortunes of the rural dwellers. They include agricultural set-up projects, rural water supply projects, rural electrification projects, rural health and disease control projects, rural education, rural feeder-road and maintenance projects, Adult education campaign, rural telecommunication system, and rural industrialization. From the above definitions, it is noted that the idea behind rural development is how to better the lives of the rural dwellers so that they can achieve their desire goals in life through CDD.

Roles of Stakeholders CDD Policy in Nigeria

In CDD policy the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders cannot be over emphases in other to achieve the set goals. These stakeholders include: The Government, Community people, CBO, Development partners, Common Interest group, Civil society Organisations, Faith based Organisations and Private Sectors. Their roles include social, cultural, economic, and political roles aside from this, the stokeholders also perform the following:

  • Government must provide enabling environment and drive the policy and the policy should the all inclusive
  • Government should build capacity of stakeholders in providing sustainable development
  • Make budgetary provision for the implementation of CDD programmes and projects
  • All the stakeholders should be involved in advocacy, mobilization and awareness creation for CDD projects and programmes
  • Identification of priority projects and programmes in various communities
  • Ensure good governance at the local levels
  • Support and advise when necessary on CDD projects and programme coordination at all time
  • Assist in building local institutions and groups and provide them with network capacity
  • Provide community with capacity to do Mointoring and Evaluation of projects and programmes
  • Private sector from time to time should provide Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR)
  • Promotion positive societal value and norms that will improve CDD in the host communities


Although there is growing evidence that Community Driven Development offers an effective means of improving the efficiency of public financing, even in optimistic scenarios, the financial requirements to improve poor people’s access to basic services far- outreach the availability of public funds. It is thus important to leverage on local and private financing sources in implementing CDD. The uses of community contributions, micro-credit financing, community contributions, and private commercial investment should be optionally exploited to achieve the goals of CDD in Nigeria….

Olajide, O. E., PhD, Community Development Unit, Department of Adult Education, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

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