To obtain good results in the implementation of development projects, project managers must consider several factors. One of them is the integration of the inhabitants’ participation in the pretended area of intervention. This strategy can help to better identify the problem to resolve, the types of beneficiaries, their resources, strengths and other characteristics.
An approach that allows considering the integration of the community in its own processes is the local development model. At the beginning of the 1970s, that model represented an alternative that encourages bottom-up work, which integrates various dimensions such as human progress in balance with the environment, considering social and cultural factors among other factors.
For authors such as Casalis (2009) 1, local development consists of a complex process, the product of a collective construction at the local level, whose objective is to mobilize the resources of the territory around a common project and include the entire population.
Managers can integrate beneficiaries from the project proposal’s design. That way, it is possible to better identify the problem the project pretends to solve. For this purpose, managers can use various qualitative and quantitative techniques for data collection, such as interviews, questionnaires or focus groups.
Communities integration within their own development processes constitutes a perfect opportunity to generate trust towards the institution that develops the project, making it possible to reduce conflicts. It also gives the opportunity to enhance local resources (human and financial), promoting other community processes, in addition to building autonomy in the population to intervene. However, perhaps the most important is to identify the community’s vision and/or development approach to generate projects with better outcomes, and that result in real benefits for the population. Hence, managers avoid generating projects from the desktop, without real data, that do not respond to real needs, which represent a waste of time and resources, with inadequate results and zero impact.
The process of integrating the community or local governments into cooperation projects can be complex and time-consuming. Nonetheless, it can undoubtedly generate better results. This process is not alien to political, social, economic, and cultural processes.
To sum up, it is important that cooperation project managers comprise community participation to identify their own development vision to solve their own problems. Thus, projects can generate ownership and self-sustainability measures in the intervened communities.
Oscar Melgar is a former journalist by Universidad Don Bosco El Salvador. He has worked in external communication in non-profit organizations both, in México and Central America. He has experience developing communication plans and strategies as well as organizing events. He has a Master’s degree in International Cooperation for Development at Instituto Mora in Mexico City. He has worked as a coordinator for several international cooperation projects. Currently, he works as a fundraiser in a non-profit organization in Mexico City whose main goal is to restitute human rights for vulnerable children.