As localization becomes a growing focus in international development, my colleagues and I at the Movement for Community-led Development (MCLD) are determined to ensure it becomes more than the flavour of the week. We believe that every person has a fundamental right to voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and that change must happen from within a community instead of being imposed from the outside. We act with a profound respect for local knowledge and co-learning.

I recently teamed up with two colleagues on a deeply powerful co-created initiative: we spent countless hours in dialogue with civil society leaders around the world considering what it means to ‘decolonize knowledge.’ The ideas that emerged from our conversations moved me – this was the strongest proof of our Movement’s commitment and love. Together, we pondered how to shift the microphone to local voices, wondering, ‘Is the willingness [of international actors] on paper or also in action?’ (Sophie Kange, Uganda). We also came away with action items, including to ‘develop an environment of selflessness’ (Joanna Mbakulo, Uganda) and ‘let local knowledge lead the process’ (Samuel Mutambo, Zambia).

Returning to our co-created project, our conversations with dozens of Movement members inspired so many new ideas they had to be broken into two journal articles. In these, we introduce the Community-led Worldview of Systems Change and offer ten recommendations for taking action to decolonize knowledge and foster authentic community-led development. These recommendations highlight the unique power of the community-led approach and the distinct importance of acting locally. I invite the international development community to take a moment to reflect on one of the ten.

Recommendation: Recognize that the power that fuels progress is intangible

In a world where materialism eclipses the more ethereal elements of the human experience, we are pushing back. Through a community-led lens, intangibles power communities. Community members speak with expert voices, are holders of local solutions, and homes to collective knowledge and social norms. When they feel ownership, dignity, and value, all of these characteristics are the drivers of change – these intangibles fuel progress.

Read the full article about community-led development by Sera Bulbul at Alliance Magazine.