Community-driven development: a field perspective on possibilities and limitations
By Bobby Anderson In the last two decades community-driven development (CDD) has become a popular development project model for the World Bank, the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and other donors. A recent 3iE report however, questioned the validity of CDD, concluding that, while it did build infrastructure, it did not improve social cohesion or other outcomes. This has led to a debate between managers, donors, and critics, with some going so far as to question CDD’s raison d’etre.
3iE’s findings came as no surprise to me. CDD wasn’t intended to meet such lofty goals as improved social cohesion in the first place. That’s not to say some implementers haven’t been tempted to try. I’ve also been tempted to look for impacts beyond CDD’s limited participatory development goals, because they do occasionally and unexpectedly emerge. The 3iE report and the debate which followed, serves as a useful reminder of CDD’s core functions, and a rejoinder to those who seek to systematize any unanticipated impacts that may arise.
Hopefully my recently published discussion paper serves as a small contribution to the debate. It is shaped by my years of experience with CDD. I currently work on the Union of Myanmar’s National Community Driven Development Project (NCDDP), and in my time I’ve been a CDD implementer, designer, donor, evaluator, and critic. This paper is intended for experienced CDD managers and donors, as well as those new to CDD. For the latter, it covers the evolution of CDD and my own experience of what CDD can and cannot do. For the former, it is of particular use in its discussion of contextually sensitive adaptations to program implementation at the grassroots, and hopefully gives some definition to the paeans to ‘conflict sensitivity’ so often bandied about in meeting rooms far from the …read more