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How Aid is Changing—and Global Orgs Should Adapt

August 25, 2022

Development is changing. USAID’s forthcoming local capacity strengthening policy reflects an evolution in the way we think about foreign assistance—and that involves more than just increased funding to local organizations.

In an opinion for Devex, I share my perspectives from 20 years at USAID on what localization means for organizations like Abt, how we should adapt (and already are), and where opportunities in development are headed.

Read on Devex: Yes, global orgs have a future in USAID’s localization agenda (requires subscription)

Beyond just good project design and management, localizing aid gives individuals, communities, and organizations the autonomy to design and implement solutions that work for them, within local systems and processes.

Long a stated priority of donors around the world, the movement gained momentum from two major catalysts in 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic, which halted most international travel and shifted more project management to in-country teams, as well as the movement to “decolonize aid,” spurred by racial uprisings in the U.S. and worldwide. Practical change, though, remains limited by complex donor requirements, including safeguards to prevent fraud, as well as the structures and inherent biases of the development industry. 

Rhetoric is also a barrier to progress. We tend to talk about localization as either the easy, direct things we can measure or the major structural dynamics within the global aid construct we should undo. That leaves large implementing organizations, like Abt—with critical roles operationalizing and advancing real change—out of the conversation.

In a future where development is locally driven, I believe global perspectives and services will still be valued. The client relationship will fundamentally shift, but core needs will remain. I’ve outlined several opportunities we see for large development implementers in localization efforts. Read more in my Devex article and learn about Abt’s approaches to building local resilience.

Learn more:

Abt's Approach to Localization

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