The Hunger Project

EpicenterPlus empowers communities and governments to collaborate for lasting impact

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

The Hunger Project (THP) and Project Concern International (PCI) , request US$100,000,000 to accelerate gender-focused community-led development and decentralization in Malawi and Zambia over three phases at the national and community level. Over many decades, international development has contributed to world-changing progress in many arenas -- like reduced child deaths. In the meantime, governments in low- and middle-income countries have become more capable. However, today’s international development is producing diminishing returns -- including unsustainable gains and lack of self-reliance. It is time for a sea change: community-led development (CLD) at scale. Community-led means people become drivers of their own country’s processes for envisioning and achieving results; not through outside top-down “solutions” that foster dependence and often miss the mark. Our proposed two-pronged approach--where national level decentralization and ground-up CLD converge to produce sustainable achievement of the SDGs --has worked in Asia. Now, we can demonstrate its effectiveness in the African context.

Problem Statement

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commit to a better, more sustainable future for all. Yet, billions of women, men and children continue to live in hunger, poverty and resignation -- without hope for fulfilling lives of self-reliance and dignity that are their right. Despite the roughly US$180 billion in top-down aid invested by high-income countries each year, this condition persists. Beyond conventional top-down aid, the overwhelming majority of government planning and spending in low and middle income countries is also top-down -- concentrating power and resources in capital cities, with central-government mandates that are not accompanied by sufficient authority, resources or social accountability at the local government level. This is particularly true in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa where average budgetary allocations from national to local government are under 5%, while across Europe, they average 26%.Our team asserts that the SDGs will not be achieved without a significant paradigm shift away from the status quo of top-down funding and governing. The only way to affect sustainable change is to localize the SDGs -- putting the ownership for their achievement in the hands of local people. The leverage points for greater localization include: valuing and developing the inherent power of women as change agents; mobilizing rural stakeholders as true partners and leaders; and forging practical and lasting partnerships with national and local government for successful decentralization of power and resources. Failure to meet the challenge of the SDGs will mean the persistence of hunger and poverty in the lives of 645 million people.

Solution Overview

We propose a two-pronged approach – via both the community and national levels – converging at the local government level to bring CLD and decentralization to scale. COMMUNITY LEVEL: Our team will scale-up a hybrid of THP’s Epicenter Strategy and PCI’s Women Empowered (WE) strategy to form EpicenterPlus -- an approach in which communities become engines of their own development -- a robust, organized social infrastructure situated within an enabling environment.Through EpicenterPlus, a cluster of 10-15 rural villages (~10,000 mostly farmers) take charge of their development and drive toward measurable, sustainable self-reliance. Together, the community shifts its mindset from “I can’t” to “we can” -- setting a collectively-held vision and agenda. The community elects gender-balanced, sector-specific committees, and engages civic-minded volunteers called animators to build a facility including clinic, bank, kindergarten, demonstration farm, agricultural shop. Within this enabling environment, the inherent agency of women is developed through rights-based workshops and self-sustaining savings groups -- culminating in a registered rural bank (SACCO) with a gender-balanced board. EpicenterPlus committees and constituents form sufficient social infrastructure and voice to lay claim to planning and resources at the local government level.EpicenterPlus sites will be showcased to advance decentralization. NATIONAL LEVEL: Our team will scale-up the Movement for CLD to support national level ministries and policy-makers -- through general meetings, conferences, high-level advisors, study tours and secondment of staff -- in implementing already-adopted national decentralization plans to transfer authority and resources to local governments. We will use SDG targets and systems-change indicators to assess impact among 400,000 people.

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