‘Identify, incubate and bring to scale initiatives that promote sustainable self-reliance of communities in developing countries and break the cycles of dependence’

In order to progress from low income to middle- and high-income status, developing countries require substantial shifts in their approach to development interventions. This will involve substantial shifts in approaches to development interventions that focus on key factors that will accelerate the leap-forward into socio-economic transformation. The ‘Agency for Self-Reliance’ buy-in at RAN is funded by USAID’s Centre for Development Research (CDR), as part of an agency-wide strategy to support interventions that will identify, incubate and bring to scale initiatives that promote sustainable self-reliance of communities in developing countries and break the cycles of dependence.

By adopting a co-creation approach, the buy-in project seeks to re-envision the way development projects are implemented while promoting communities’ ownership and leadership of projects that address their development challenges. To this end, RAN works collaboratively with the district local governments and members of the community to identify, co-design, develop and implement community-led solutions. The project is being implemented in Uganda (in Lamwo and Mayuge district) and Malawi. Amidst the challenges brought about by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we were able to make progress towards the projects in each of these locations. We provide an update on the traction made by the RAN team in these communities.

Mayuge District, Uganda 

In a desk review conducted by the RAN team, Mayuge district was identified as one of the poorest performing regions in the area of Basic Education. The project in this district therefore seeks to promote community agency towards improving the quality of basic education in rural schools in Kityerera sub-county in Mayuge. Through Small group consultations with parents, teachers, youth, local leaders and other key stakeholders in the area of basic education in Kityerera sub-county, we were able to identify the key challenges in the area of basic education and existing programs and approaches currently in place. These discussions, which took place just before the national lockdown in March 2020, set the stage for the community co-creation activity, where these challenges were presented back to community members of Kityerera sub-county. The co-creation in Mayuge district took place in August 2020. Among the participants invited for the co-creation activity were parents, teachers from local primary schools, members of Parent Teacher Associations (PTA), district education officers, LCIs and youth. Participants were grouped into four groups and guided by RAN’s technical team through the co-creation process that is largely premised on the Human Centered Design (HCD) Approach. At the end of a grueling two-day workshop, the four groups had each ideated a project, which they further refined and submitted as a project proposal to the RAN team. These proposals were reviewed by an internal and external panel of judges and two were selected for implementation. On Monday 30th November, 2020, the RAN team made its fourth trip this year to the district to induct the two selected teams. Through hands-on trainings, groups were introduced to project management, taught to budget and account for funds, formulate workplans and monitor the progress of their project. The two projects were also launched in their community on Thursday 3rd December, 2020 to ensure they remain accountable to the people whom they seek to support. The two projects are:

Group photo by our stand-in photographer Anthony

‘Mama Eyetengereire Mukusomesa Abaanabe’ (or MEMA for short), which means ‘a mother who is resilient in educating her children’. This project will focus majorly on building financial resilience of mothers to better enable to support their children throughout their educational journey through a village savings scheme. Unlike other savings groups this one will seek to prioritize education by:

  1. Apportioning a small amount to go towards buying essential scholastic materials and meet pertinent needs such as transport fares and food from the monthly savings accrued.
  2. Embedding a mentorship scheme, where parents are trained in adequately supporting their children’s educational needs
  3. Promoting collective ownership and responsibility of mothers in the clusters towards the education of their children by appointing a ‘Super Mother’ on a rotational basis who is tasked to follow-up on and report on the educational well-being of children represented in the group.

Gema Kumwanamwino Asome Twezimbe’ (or GEKAT for short), which means ‘help your fellow friend to study and we develop ourselves’. This project proposes to form and empower Pupil Support Groups (PSGs) that will work alongside the Parents Teachers Associations (P.T.As), (School Management Committee (SMC), teachers and the Local Council I (LC 1) to identify and encourage enrolment of school-aged children that are currently out of school. PSGs will also work to encourage enrolled peers through their educational journey support them with the mobilization and sensitization in the community to enrol children into school. The project will identify and appoint influential students to be part of the PSGs, as well as patrons who successfully completed their education and can serve as role. This combination of PSGs and Patrons will be trained in areas like: career guidance and counselling, Sexuality Reproductive Health Education, ‘my right my voice’, economic skills training i.e. vegetable growing (tomatoes, G. nuts). Skills which will be passed on to their peers. The project will also promote co-curricular activities like ball games, drama clubs, Sports, among the model debate clubs in order to keep children active and inspire them to stay in school and encourage the enrolment of their peers. 

We look forward to sharing the successes from the implementation of these community-owned projects in Mayuge. 

Lamwo District, Uganda 

Formerly part of Kitgum district, Lamwo is a district in the Northern region of Uganda that was formally established in 2009. It is largely rural based and is home to a large population of refugees, given its proximity to the South Sudanese boarder. While several efforts have been made to support youth in the district, many of these have focused on youth among the refugee communities. From consultations (by way of small group dialogues that took place in September 2020 with the youth, leadership, implementing partners and community members in Lamwo district, we identified a number of the issues affecting youth in the area of youth livelihoods and learnt some of the challenges that have affected programs being implemented in the district to support youth livelihoods. Among the key issues raised were the attitudes of youth in the region, who were reported to be uninspired, lack vision and who’ve become dependent on handouts. The project in Lamwo therefore seeks to transform youth livelihoods through sustainable entrepreneurial practices. The RAN team just made its third trip to Lamwo district on Monday 14th December, 2020, to work with youth and members of some rural and urban communities to co-create solutions to the pre-identified challenges. The two-day co-creation workshop took place on Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th December, 2020. After several brain cracking sessions, the four groups managed to successfully ideate their solutions and we look forward to receiving their refined proposals for review. 


Through RAN’s network partner at the Centre for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD) at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), we are implementing the ‘Agency for Self-Reliance’ buy-in activities in Malawi. In Malawi, the project focuses on building permanent resilience to climate-related livelihoods adversity in communities where adverse climate events recur. The RAN team in Malawi identified Nsanje district as the implementation site for the project. Dialogues assessed the representative opinions of the communities and their citizens in Nsanje District of Malawi. The main objectives of this activity was:

  1. To determine the challenges that limit communities to build permanent resilience to climate-related livelihood shocks;
  2.  To determine which stakeholders are currently working on building sustainable resilience to climate-related shocks, especially flooding and drought in the district; 
  3. To identify mechanisms for engaging the communities in Nsanje Districts to strengthen community agency for self-reliance in promoting resilient livelihoods.

Through dialogues with community members, implementing partners and the local government the team has sought to understand the resilience challenges in communities in Nsanje. The team is now planning its implementation of the community co-creations. 

We look forward to reporting back to you in 2021 on the amazing efforts of community members in addressing their development challenges.