International forums have long encouraged increased use of local systems to implement donor-funded development programs, as a strategy to improve sustainability. As part of the USAID Forward reform agenda launched in 2010, USAID adopted the local solutions initiative which focused on strengthening local capacity, enhancing and promoting country ownership, and increasing sustainability of outcomes. While USAID officials in operating units worldwide were optimistic about the positive impact of local solutions efforts, the Agency lacked a means to determine whether local solutions had achieved progress toward its goals. Measures of success, and key terms and concepts, were not clearly defined and uniformly understood by Agency personnel at all levels in headquarters and the field. In addition, while USAID developed risk mitigation procedures for the selection of local implementing partners, not all operating units were consistently applying these tools. As a result, some may have missed the opportunity to adequately or fully evaluate and mitigate risk factors for working with local implementing partners. Although the local solutions initiative officially ended in 2017, the principles of local ownership and sustainability will continue and be further integrated as core Agency practices. USAID agreed to improve its monitoring of operating units’ compliance with Agency policy to conduct full risk assessments and mitigate identified risks, to improve its continued engagement with local organizations.
Despite Optimism About Engaging Local Organizations, USAID Had Challenges Determining Impact and Mitigating Risks
USAID/Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning implement a process to periodically monitor operating units’ compliance with Agency policy to conduct full risk assessments and mitigate identified risks for local nongovernmental partners in a timely manner.