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Participation and Empowerment

Partners, local authorities and citizens are working collaboratively to respond effectively to their development needs.

work with the community

The need to strengthen the participation and empowerment of multiple groups in society has not changed since the previous strategic plan. As noted in that plan, people first need to be empowered to participate, and once they are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes that affect their lives, they can then be further empowered to act. This mutually reinforcing process is, therefore, an essential requirement for civic engagement. VBNK facilitates a ‘Community Conversation’ approach, which is a shared participatory process that creates safe space for communities, civil society actors, and sub-national authorities (SNAs) to work together to identify and seek solutions to their critical development issues. By participating, communities develop the skills and confidence to overcome hierarchies that have traditionally limited their involvement in democratic processes and dictated who has the right to speak. Likewise, the SNAs gain deeper understanding of their roles and how to fulfil them in partnership with the community. All are enabled to have shared ownership of local development initiatives.


Our learning from the completion of the Strengthening Grassroots Democracy (SGD) project and the pilot Empowering Accountability (EA) project has reinforced everything noted above. There are many complexities that need to be addressed when trying to achieve change. We have learned that a holistic approach is essential, as is time to work with the target groups. As with our organisation development work this component of our strategy requires an accompaniment approach. VBNK does not work directly with communities but supports local partner organisations to change the way they work with their target groups and local duty bearers.


It is our intention to develop a new project to further our work on participation and empowerment and use this as the basis for sharing our learning about effective practices with other organisations working with similar target groups.

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