By Amber Morgan
Vinson Fellow Blog Post 2 - Amber Morgan
My project as a Vinson Fellow this semester involved exploring ways to best include local communities and governments in international development projects. I wanted my research with the Institute’s International Center to explore solutions for all types of development projects, and not one specific area.
My goal was to provide nongovernmental organizations and international development organizations with best practices in community involvement in order to complete more sustainable and community-driven development projects. Because many development projects are not continued or fail after the NGO or development organizations leave, I believe that finding the best ways to involve the local communities and ensure that they are invested in the development projects and have the skills to continue them is the key to more effective and more sustainable development projects.
Through my research I found that there are a few ways that development organizations and NGOs can effectively involve local communities. Creating a committee of community leaders that are involved with every step of the development project is one solution. This committee would serve as a liaison between the community and the implementer of the development project and be able to voice community opinions. This would also ensure that the implementer is not missing out on important local knowledge when planning and implementing the project.
Another way of ensuring local community involvement is to hire local workers and project managers to work along with workers from the NGO or development organization. This would also bridge the cultural gap that often exists between the implementers and the local community.
A third way to effectively involve the community is to take the approach pioneered by Ernesto Sirolli, a noted authority in the field of sustainable economic development and the founder of the Sirolli Institute, an international nonprofit organization that teaches community leaders how to establish and maintain Enterprise Facilitation projects in their community. Sirolli’s Enterprise Facilitation approach involves listening to entrepreneurial ideas of local people and offering free consultation to help them start their own businesses. This method proved particularly effective for economic development, as the local people were pursuing their passions rather than being told what was best for local economic development by a third party.
Throughout my research, I was able to consult my mentor, Rusty Brooks, for advice. I was able to learn from his expertise and experience implementing development projects. I was also able to pull from my own experience volunteering with development projects in developing countries. I discovered that while the solutions to community involvement are very simple, they are seldom implemented during development projects. I hope my research can influence NGOs and development agencies to better involve local communities. Though my time as a Vinson Fellow is coming to an end, I will continue to be a strong advocate for local involvement in international development projects, as I believe it is the key to a more sustainable result.
Amber Morgan is a senior from Canon, majoring in international affairs and political science. Her primary research interests are sustainable development, women’s issues and conflict. She previously worked on the UGA Amendments program with Anthony Madonna and is currently involved in UGA Rotaract and the Delta Zeta sorority.