USAID announces New Directions in Advancing Locally Led Development Program

Deadline: 12 July 2019

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) is seeking applications for New Directions in Advancing Locally Led Development Program.

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USAID looks forward to the day when foreign assistance is no longer necessary. The Agency seeks to partner directly with local leaders, networks, and institutions to better enable and empower communities to respond to complex development challenges with smarter, more resilient, and home-grown solutions. USAID’s Office of Local Sustainability, Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment (E3/LS), leads the Agency’s efforts of promoting locally led development, an important objective under the Journey to Self-Reliance.

E3/LS promotes learning and evaluation, provides expert technical assistance, and is building a culture and capacity within USAID around local ownership. The Office equips Agency Operating Units with the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources to: leverage local capacities and resources; engage with local systems in ways that build upon and strengthen local leadership, capacity, and self-reliance; and be inclusive of marginalized populations. E3/LS’s underlying theory of change is that when local people exercise greater leadership and decision-making power throughout the development process, local ownership to sustain development outcomes over time is enhanced. Further, the Office recognizes that commitment and capacity exist everywhere we work.

Through this Addendum to the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for Locally Led Development Innovation, USAID is interested in identifying opportunities for co-creation, co-design, co-investment, and collaboration on research and development activities that advance knowledge and practice around donor support for locally led development.  The Addendum addresses five thematic areas:  engaging the local private sector; conflict, post-conflict and non-permissive environments; effective partnerships; the changing role of the donor; and local giving, philanthropy, and other private resources.

Through prior use of the BAA process, E3/LS explored ways in which USAID could more effectively support locally led development – and the challenges that would need to be addressed to reach this goal.  The Office co-created four awards that have helped the Agency to learn more about applying systems thinking to development, financial sustainability, and strategic transitions from donor-led to locally led development.  This Addendum reflects that learning – and incorporates current Agency priorities, including increased focus on locally led development.

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Solutions Sought

USAID is interested in identifying opportunities for co-creation, co-design, co-investment and collaboration to advance knowledge and practice for locally led development. These solutions may include applied research and development interventions to address gaps in knowledge and practice, and designing and testing new approaches relevant to USAID and other donors. Applicants should also consider how their approaches might incorporate gender equality and women’s empowerment or support indigenous or marginalized communities.

E3/LS has identified five areas of interest and relevant guiding questions with regard to locally led development. Organizations may submit more than one Expression of Interest – but each Expression of Interest should clearly address only one of the five areas of focus below. The questions provided under each topic are illustrative; organizations submitting Expressions of Interest may speak to related matters as relevant.

  1. Engaging the local private sector – USAID’s Private Sector Engagement Policy signals an intentional shift to pursue market-based approaches and investment as a means to accelerate countries’ progress on the Journey to Self-Reliance. USAID seeks information and new approaches on how to engage the local private sector in support of locally led development.
    • What are the most useful ways to understand the local private sector, including local market dynamics and potential for market distortion, and the implications for donor engagement?
    • How can USAID more effectively engage with local private sector actors and firms to advance and sustain development outcomes that local people care about?
    • What are effective ways for USAID to engage with, including convening and/or facilitating local private sector actors as strategic partners in creating and implementing market-based solutions to development challenges?
    • What barriers and opportunities do local private firms, including women and minority owned businesses, see to partnering with USAID and other donors?
  2. Conflict, post-conflict, and non-permissive environments (NPE)- Locally led development efforts have proven effective in NPE across contexts. USAID hopes to understand how and when to engage with local actors in this context to support locally led development.
    • How can USAID and its partners apply locally led development principles in our work in environments characterized by active or recent conflict, fragility, and/or low consensus?
    • How can USAID engage the local private sector in fragile settings, or where the local economy has been significantly affected by conflict?
    • How can USAID and other donors effectively engage and support existing community led initiatives in contexts characterized by active or recent conflict, fragility, and/or low consensus?
    • How do we engage, not engage, or account for actors who benefit from conflict when we are thinking about facilitating, convening, and understanding complex systems?
  3. Effective Partnerships – USAID’s Transformation, Acquisition and Assistance Strategy, and New Partnerships Initiative emphasize effective partnerships characterized by mutual respect, shared contribution, and joint accountability. They hope to better understand how to move away from transactional relationships and toward partnerships based on shared goals and objectives that create a shared sense of ownership and accountability.
    • What are the barriers and opportunities to working with new and under-utilized local partners?
    • How can USAID engage with local actors and communities who are not partnering with USAID, but share our goals?
    • What are techniques and good practices for identifying, establishing, and maintaining effective partnerships characterized by mutual respect, common vision, shared contribution, and joint accountability between donors and local actors across different contexts and levels of capacity and commitment?
    • What are the unintended effects of our partnerships on local systems and communities, and how can donors meaningfully address the power dynamics and ethical issues inherent in decisions about how, when, and with whom we engage?
    • How can donors cultivate high quality partnerships by creating and using feedback loops that are completed in both directions and reach community level?
  4. The Changing Role of the Donor – To be a more effective partner, USAID is adopting a new approach that recognizes and supports the existing commitment and capacity everywhere they work. We need to strengthen our ability to co-create, collaborate, facilitate, and broker joint efforts among local and international development actors, valuing local knowledge and perspectives in the process. USAID recognizes its changing role as a catalyst and broker that encourages long-term and sustainable outcomes.
    • How can USAID and other donors identify, reach, and support existing processes of collaboration among local actors without distorting them?
    • How do we engage, not engage, or account for illicit actors, likely losers from change, potential spoilers, other challenging system players when we are thinking about facilitating, convening, and understanding complex systems?
    • What does “authentic dialogue and collaboration” among donors, partners, and the communities they serve look like in practice? How can participants ensure that the relationships coming out of authentic dialogue and collaboration are durable and selfsustaining?
    • What can USAID and other donors learn from businesses and investors that prioritize the social return on investment? What can we learn from each other to focus on longer term, systemic, and sustainable outcomes?
    • How can donors value and act on local knowledge, definitions, expectations, and measures throughout our work and reconcile these with donor priorities and accountability needs?
  5. Local Giving, Philanthropy, and Other Private Resources – Today, about 80 percent of resources for development come from private sources. USAID needs to better understand how our ways of engaging should change to tap into diverse forces for sustainable development.
    • How can USAID support local development actors to more effectively mobilize resources through giving, both domestically and internationally?
    • How does community philanthropy happen in different kinds of development contexts, and how can USAID and its partners better support these efforts where they exist?
    • How can venture philanthropy and corporate giving contribute to locally defined development priorities?
    • How can USAID better align private and corporate philanthropic resources, USAID, and local priorities for development outcomes?

The Need for New Approaches

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USAID recognizes the need for new, innovative, and cost-effective ways to enhance local leadership of development challenges to advance self-reliance in their own communities. Challenges with the five research and development topic areas listed above include, but are not limited to: the specific development context; variations in existing commitment and capacity for development; challenges around transparency, accountability, and inclusion; barriers to mobilizing local resources; and other sector- and context-specific challenges. Other challenges arise from within the development assistance system itself. These can include, but are not limited to: extensive donor compliance requirements for partners; time constraints on USAID staff; funding requirements that may not align with local context and priorities; and program design and implementation systems that are often not set up to prioritize local voices, leadership, and management.

Guidance for Concepts

Concepts will be submitted after co-creation and per the guidelines outlined in the Broad Agency Announcement for Locally Led Development Innovation. Proposed concepts may be at any of the following stages of development:

  • Proof of concept – introduction of a solution in a specific country context to gain an early, realworld assessment of technical, organization, distribution, and financial viability of the solution.
  • Testing impact and delivery – testing a proven concept toward improved outcomes and/or viability, as well as operational refinement to build paths to sustainability and scale.
  • Scaling-up – adaptation of a rigorously evaluated innovation to new contexts and geographies and engagement of additional partners who will help scale the project beyond USAID support, but for whom more evidence of success and track record are needed.

Eligibility Criteria

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All U.S. and Non-U.S. organizations, businesses, institutions, individuals and groups.


The following criteria will be applied to all Expressions of Interest:

  • Idea/Approach: Soundness of applicants’ idea/approach, including appropriate evidence, to fostering systems that address challenges and harness opportunities. USAID will focus on how the applicant contributes fresh, informed, and realistic thinking, and how the applicant uses supporting evidence and analysis to clearly demonstrate how the proposed idea will advance knowledge and practice of locally led development one or more of the five thematic areas identified in the Solutions Sought section. USAID seeks demonstrated technical expertise and capability in the solution domains addressed in their expression of interest, and the ability to effectively collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders, including USAID, to achieve results that are meaningful to local actors and communities. Equally important are the unique qualities that the applicant would bring to the discussion.
  • Partnership expectations and value: Strengths of applicants’ organization as a partner, including their ability to make a unique contribution to the critical development challenge. USAID seeks the ability to connect disparate communities, i.e. academia, private sector, civil society, as well as connecting with experts in nontraditional and diverse sectors. Please provide specific examples of collaboration or co-creation with other parties or partners.
  • Diversity of perspectives and capabilities: USAID seeks to bring together a diverse set of cocreators in collaboration in order to enable broader thinking and innovation, which may include organizations and entities with which USAID does not typically partner. Additionally, USAID values experience implementing adaptive and/or iterative activities, managing successful peer-topeer networks, and catalyzing new ideas effectively. The selection of individual applicants will be made with the goal of achieving this diversity.
  • Impact and goals of the activities: Describe the intended outcomes and goals of the concept and how they relate to USAID’s policies and objectives. Indicate how applicants’ concept addresses USAID priorities for inclusive development (gender equality and women’s empowerment, indigenous rights, disability inclusion, addressing power imbalances with marginalized communities) as appropriate.

USAID is not obligated to issue financial instruments or awards as a result of this Addendum.

How to Apply

Applicants must submit their expression of interest in English.

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