A community-led organization meets.

At Outreach International, we focus on community-led development. Our experts work with partners around the world to put these methods to use in communities that are living in a cycle of chronic poverty.

But what is community-led development, and how does it help people overcome their poverty-related issues? This post will shed some light on this practice and explain how it works. Over time, communities become aware of the power they have to achieve solutions to their own problems.

Women leaders work together and show what community-led development is all about.

What Is Community-Led Development?

If an outside organization showed up in a remote town and offered to hand out a bag of rice to every family who lives there, the gesture may be appreciated. But what if those families are dealing with persistent malnutrition because a long dry season causes a short rice growing season? This community may benefit from some rice for a short time. But a rice handout is not a solution to the ongoing water crisis that is the root of this problem.

Community-led development, or CLD, is not a handout. In this example, instead of receiving a bag of rice, what if the community members learned how to access the resources they would need to build irrigation systems that would extend their growing season? They would consequently solve their own problem of malnutrition, and also reap additional benefits. They might grow enough rice to sell the excess. And because of the process they use, they would gain the knowledge they need to achieve future goals.

Women lead a community-led organization meeting.

Development Projects

The specific goals that can be achieved, and the true meaning of what community-led development is, are demonstrated in the projects themselves. For instance, better access to clean water might mean financing and managing the digging of a water well. Improved nutrition might mean accessing better farm equipment, superior seeds, installing irrigation systems, and more. Likewise, increased employment opportunities may mean finding and financing trade school courses or organizing affordable small business loans.

A community group identifies and prioritizes issues and goals.

Participatory Human Development (PHD)

Development projects are essential for reaching the goals a community is striving to achieve. But projects are only a part of CLD. The overarching goal is sustained development. This means that when a group knows how to identify, prioritize, and mobilize to reach a goal, they don’t just reach that one goal. They can reach every goal after that.

Development then becomes continuous – sustainable – even to the point where it can be passed to future generations. And the process Outreach uses to show communities that they’re empowered with these capabilities is called Participatory Human Development. People participate in improving their own lives. Community-led development is based on the belief that the person best able to solve a problem is the one who is living with that problem. As a result of the PHD process, people learn to do just that.

These community-led organizations elect their own leaders, create democratically developed constitutions, devise systems to manage projects, learn financial management skills, and subsequently gain the capacity to tap into nearby resources, network, and grow. Outreach International and its partners facilitate the learning of these skills.

Women participate, lead, and get results.

The Movement for Community-Led Development (MCLD)

Outreach International is a proud member of The Movement for Community-Led Development. The MCLD is a joint effort of over 70 member organizations, including World Vision, Oxfam, Heifer International, and others. They all work to bring community-based organizations, societies, and governments together in partnership. In doing so, they strive to achieve empowerment and agency for women and marginalized groups, community-led collaboration, and effective local leadership. As a result, the entire MCLD shows its dedication to furthering the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

At community meetings, women show up and speak up.

The movement is growing, the progress being made is miraculous, and the resulting goals communities are reaching all over the world are at the heart of what community-led development and Outreach International are all about.

How to Help

Learn more about what community-led development is and how Outreach and its partners bring the practice to communities worldwide.