Mercy Corps focuses on working in countries in transition, where communities are struggling to recover from political or economic collapse, conflict or natural disaster. Experience has identified community-led and market-driven programs as the critical factor in helping communities sustainably rebuild and recover. Key to this approach is enabling communities to mobilize successfully for action.
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Working in a variety of transitional environments, Mercy Corps has applied a community mobilization methodology that engages communities to identify priorities, resources, needs and solutions in a manner that promotes representative participation, good governance, accountability and peaceful change. Additionally, the approach seeks to link communities with government and the private sector so that productive relationships and interactions can continue in the long term. Most importantly, these programs aspire to enable communities, business and government to continue working together long after the immediate project has ended. Clearly, a sustained ability for collective problem solving offers the best path to lasting improvement in people's lives and, for donors, the best return on investment.
Recently Mercy Corps undertook a field study to gauge the post-program success of two USAID-funded large-scale, multi-year transitional community recovery programs in Central Asia. In the transitional and impoverished environment of post-soviet Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Mercy Corps had sought to engage communities to address their needs and foster linkages with the public sector for long term social and economic change. One to five years after projects had ended, the organization was eager to understand the lasting impacts of the program, successes, challenges and recommendations for such programs in the future.
A research team made up of Mercy Corps staff, temporary employees and an intern research student, returned to the regions where the programs had operated, studied 51 randomly sampled communities in depth, analyzed the findings and was excited to discover significant and positive evidence of post program sustained change. The study validates Mercy Corps' belief that, when properly implemented, community mobilization programs help empower communities to take action.
This report reviews the research and contributes meaningful data to an area that has not been sufficiently documented in the development world: the longer term impact of community mobilization programs.