July 2014

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Weary donors around the world are searching for what will bring sustainable transformation to the poor. We must always ask, “What works that will last beyond the aid?” From more than 40 years of international work in some of the most distressed nations of the globe, my answer is simple – Local Leader Centered Development.

When local leaders are valued, honored, listened to, and empowered to execute transformational initiatives based on their dreams and visions, on the resources at hand and on the rhythm of their own culture, the change lasts.  The community is changed from the inside-out.  Ownership of the new reality is felt by the local population.  Creativity is fostered.  Diversity in unity is cultivated.  The leaders and people experience the dignity of being masters of their own destiny and stewards of their own resources.

I recently returned from 10 days in rural Zimbabwe, invited to facilitate a change process in this community of many distressed people.  Working with 85 local leaders, we helped them surface their own visions and dreams and grasp the assets that they already possess.  Relational trust grew as together they wrote plans to transform and develop their district.  They created a local development association with this mission statement:  “MAMUDA (Masembura and Musana Development Association) exists to promote sustainable development and empowerment by the local people for the future generations.  We encourage total control and ownership of the resources by the local community.”  Read more about our meeting in the Bulawayo News here.

Check back with me in a couple of years.  My experience tells me that outside-in project-centered development does not last, but inside-out Local Leader CenteredDevelopment does.  What are you practicing or investing in?  Does it last?

Gary Edmonds