The Dynamics of Grassroots-led Development: What Works? Case studies from Egypt

dr. Solava Ibrahim, University of Manchester and University of Cambridge

Over the past two decades, there has been a growing consensus on the need to promote people-centred development (UNDP Human Development Reports 1990-2013; Sen, 1999), to empower local communities (Alsop et al, 2006; Narayan 2002), to make the reality of the poor come ‘first’ (Chambers, 1997), to listen to the voices of the poor (Narayan, 2000a; b), to limit the effects of ‘tyrannical’ participatory approaches (Cooke and Kothari, 2001; Cleaver, 2001; Cornwall, 2002) and to scale-up the impact of NGO work and render it more effective (Edwards and Hulme, 2000; Chambers, 1992; Korten, 1987). However, to date, only a few tentative models have been developed to explore how ‘one-off’ grassroots initiatives can be successful, sustainable and scalable. This paper seeks to fill in this gap by developing and refining such a model and presenting its findings from Egypt. The need to develop such a model has been expressed not only by national governments (through their Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers), but also by local and international NGOs as well as donor agencies that aim to build on these grassroots-initiatives and scale them up to enhance the ‘value-for-money’ and the impact of their development assistance.
The aim of the paper, however, is not to present a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of grassroots-led development (GLD) far from it. It seeks to identify common components that are necessary for the success, sustainability and scaling-up of grassroots-led development initiatives. This paper presents a new model of grassroots-led development. It argues that there are three crucial C-processes needed to establish and promote scalable, successful and sustainable grassroots development; namely: (1) Conscientization; (2) Conciliation and (3) Collaboration.
Using case studies from Egypt, the paper explores how and why these three processes are important for initiating, promoting and sustaining grassroots-led development. The paper shows how the process of conscientization encourages citizens to think critically about their realities and nurtures their 'capacity to aspire' for better lives. The conciliation process is important to blend in individual and communal interests and render them mutually reinforcing. This step is also crucial to build a common vision and to agree a goal that the state and the local community later strive to pursue. The third process in the proposed model is collaboration - that is building a working partnership between the local communities and other actors, such as the state, local NGOs and donor agencies. Such partnership is important not only for the sustainability of development outcomes, but also for enhancing their scaling-up potential and long-term impact.
The paper shows how these three C-processes are inter-related and overlapping and how their dynamics vary in each socio-economic, cultural and political context, but all three remain crucial for promoting grassroots-led development.


About the speaker
Solava Ibrahim is a lecturer in international development at the Institute for Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester and an affiliated lecturer at the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge. She worked as a Research Fellow in Global Poverty Reduction at the Brooks World Poverty Institute at the University of Manchester. She holds a PhD. and MPhil in Development Studies from Cambridge and an MA. and BA. in Political Science from the American University in Cairo. She has worked for UNDP Egypt and consulted the Centre of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Her main research interests are poverty reduction, governance, grassroots activism, empowerment and state-society relations. Her publications include articles in Third World Quarterly, Oxford Development Studies and Journal of Human Development. She also recently published her co-edited book: 'The Capability Approach: from Theory to Practice’ and has another book on ‘The Role of Local Councils in Empowerment and Poverty Reduction in Egypt’.

Venue: conference room

Date: 15 January 2015

Time: 12:45 - 13:45


UNU-MERIT