Unravelling Aid Decentralization & its implications for International Nonprofits

What is aid decentralization, and why is it the heart of nonprofit missions?

When nonprofits form strategies to drive international development, there is a range of common issues across the sector. One very common issue is that of aid decentralization and who takes the reins of making aid effective. More simply put, how will development be locally sustainable? Read on to learn about decentralization strategies, how and why they support sustainable development.

The challenges

Challenges facing international nonprofits tend to resonate across regions and include:

  • Donor-driven governance models are being operated from the top, with minimal accountability or feedback from those at the bottom of the ladder.
  • Uncertain ‘return on investment’: When an international nonprofit invests in a country, it’s not always certain that projects will succeed and you run the risk of investing significantly to no avail.
  • Lack of inclusive leadership: Gender and race gaps, in which minorities and women find themselves out of leadership roles and have minimal opportunities to climb the ladder and become leaders plague international nonprofits.
  • Roadblocks in transitioning: To fully transition to decentralized development, a long-term period of support and assistance that comprises technical and operational hand-over from the parent organisation to the local entity is key
  • Limited grassroots voices: Lack of representation of various interest groups makes program conceptualisation and implementation difficult. Development without grassroots voices becomes a process that is removed from local realities

Building long term strategies through decentralized development

Building sustainability is correlated with building resilient organizations at the local level in the ‘Global South’. By completing a nonprofit mission/project and leaving no structures behind for local institutions, there is a high likelihood that the situation will simply revert to where it was before.

One step organizations can take to build a more sustainable presence and sustainable mission is by forming legal entities. By building sustainable governance modes for local entities (including clearly chalked out roles for operations, finance, human capital), you introduce structures that can become more locally driven and sustainable across funding periods and diverse funding sources. Once the initial aid source ends, the structures can remain in place and long term development can be pursued through potentially different donors and funding sources.

Local stakeholders and leadership buy-in to the short, medium and longer-term strategy of the development missions/projects is essential to achieving impact beyond one funding source or one funding cycle. Many international nonprofits have become well recognized global brands in their own right and their sustainability is part of their value to and for the communities that they serve.  Incorporating local governance, representation and local leadership into decision making and structuring for the long term set the organization up to make a greater impact.

So what? How?

To help guide organisations through their ‘decentralizing aid’ long-term strategy, Sannam S4’s Nonprofit Consulting and Research Team have developed a knowledge-sharing session – that deep dives into the contemporary global context of international development and how localization, or decentralisation, is impacting the international nonprofit community.

By using case studies and Sannam S4’s work with nonprofits as a foundation for discussion, we will discuss governance models and how long-term planning can effectively take place in order to build a sustainable organization, sustainable leadership and ultimately sustainable development.  The sessions will include time for Q&A and discussion.

The knowledge sharing session aims to be a conversation and thought-starter on global governance models and local leadership. It aims to highlight best practices for building a sustainable, decentralized, international nonprofit community.

Leave a Reply