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Supporting Local Transformation

A network of in-country centres that help people help themselves by putting knowledge-into-practice and building durable capacity.

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Demonstration Training Centre & model green building in Warri, Nigeria

This idea is expanding and strengthening a global network of in-country centres sharing experiences and model approaches to development in one or more of three main focus areas - water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH), renewable energy, and agricultural development.

Key problems in development:

  • The need for systemic support i.e. program rather than project thinking; For example funders often seek specific solutions such as wells drilled, rather than addressing the systemic issues behind poor water, sanitation, hygiene, which results in failed projects and lost investments over time.
  • Mistakes are repeated (projects failing, wrong technology, no long-term plan etc.) because lessons learned aren't captured and shared, and so do not become lessons used.

By developing a network of in-country centres these problems are addressed by :

  • The network provides access by each centre to the knowledge and experience of other centres, and to the network of advisors and contacts that Transform has developed to help answer questions, address problems, and seeking funding;
  • Centres make a long term commitment to a region which builds trust and knowledge; 
  • Centres can demonstrate, train, share, test, assess, and adapt possible solutions, building capacity within the region, so that people know where to turn to access knowledge and skills to help themselves achieve a better life;
  • Centres provide feedback loops which allow lessons from the field to be fed back, improved, and shared helping to put knowledge-into-practice.
  • Training and capacity building fosters small business solutions to development that provide sustainability and scale-up.
  • By doing a better job of addressing basic development issues, in ways that are sensitive to the environment, gender, and conflict, this idea addresses peace, prosperity, and our planet.

To further develop this idea funding is needed to:

1. Adapt existing open source training and develop new training programs for member CTCs in core areas. This includes programs that help the member organizations be the best they can be - governance, finance, leadership, and how to be a learning organization. Also programs on technical issues that increase capacity to train and build knowledge in their respective regions.

2. Operating funding to allow the network to refine the value proposition for member centres, hire a training lead, and technology lead, and to evaluate the impact of network and member centres on sustainable development in their regions.

3. Work with the northern Malawi CTC to implement WASH in health clinics, train trainers, coach and mentor health facility staff, and improve WASH facilities in a select group of clinics, monitor and evaluate for scale up to other CTCs. 

4. Work with the southern Nigeria (Niger Delta) CTC to develop, in collaboration with users, experts, and NGO representatives, a menu of sanitation technology options that are safe, affordable, and made with locally available materials, so that the appalling sanitation conditions in the region (rampant open defecation) can be addressed through sanitation marketing and behaviour change initiatives.

Explain your idea

Over a number of years, an informal network of WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) professionals realized they had all observed the same issues around development - all too often the same mistakes are repeated. Digging deeper, we recognized the need for long term systemic support that includes providing timely access to useful knowledge and putting that knowledge-into-practice. Lessons learned by one implementer are rarely shared with others, inside or outside the organization, and therefore do not become lessons used – particularly across a region sharing common challenges. Finding practical information that is useful can be difficult, even when elsewhere, in a similar context, solutions have been found that work. Stakeholders - implementers, government staff, community leaders and end users, have no easy way to get progressive knowledge applicable to their circumstances. Relevant knowledge needs to reside in the region, lessons learned must be used and shared, supporting structures and capacity built in a way that will be accessible over the long term. As better know-how, and more economical technologies appear elsewhere in the world, they need to be systematically brought to the local level, adapted, tested, and shared, with practical demonstrations, training, investment and marketing. Providing long term systemic support requires a minimum 10-year commitment to being part of the community, a trusted partner in growth and change. This suggested a model: a coordinated network of in-country centres that focus on helping people help themselves. Centres built and run locally, who may receive some support from outside, but are seeking sustainability. Centres designed to address the critical issue of putting knowledge-into-practice year-after-year until it becomes a way of life. Centres with the resources to improve outcomes, build durable capacity within the community, provide sensible, site-appropriate technologies, and encourage the belief that a better, healthier life really is possible. Transform came to life as an organization focused on finding and helping those centres be the best they can be, maximizing the impact of their efforts to help people help themselves achieve better lives. We are by building a network of in-country centres (currently we have 7 members - Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Mali, Zambia, and Nigeria), who believe in the value of ongoing learning, collaboration, and planning. TI’s role is to support these centres to further grow and develop, to reach to our connections to provide support, and to facilitate sharing and learning. By supporting and growing long term in-country capacity and knowledge, communities in each region will have a place to go for information, entrepreneurs can be trained, regional planning can be fostered, and lessons learned by all, can be shared. The key is putting the right know-how into use in the field and evolving over the long term.

Who Benefits?

Currently we have 7 member centres around the world, but our dream is to have hundreds. Each centre can serve its surrounding region of about a 5 hour drive. Although our primary beneficiary are the centres and their staff, ultimately the beneficiaries will be people all over the world who are keen to help themselves and their communities, but have difficulty knowing where to look for solutions. They need options appropriate for their situation. They want to touch, feel, and interact with different technology solutions, understand costs and benefits, and explore adaptation for local needs. Without this, over and over they simply fall back on what they know – whether it works or not.

How is your idea unique?

We are not aware of any other organization building a network like TI. There is growing recognition of the need for systemic support in developing regions. And there is also growing recognition of the need for knowledge management. But there is no mechanism currently that connects centres, committed to collaboration, capacity building, long term program v. project support, and feedback loops that gather lessons learned and put knowledge-into-practice. The advantage we have is a good network that includes academics, practitioners, volunteers, and sector experts, together with extensive development experience.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

Transform International (TI) is a non-profit corporation organized in North America, and tax-qualified to receive donations that are tax-deductible in USA. Our strategic plan (uploaded) includes a list of current advisors and participants. I'm the Executive Director, and my name is Nancy Gilbert. I'm in the process of finishing a doctorate on the topic 'Improving Sanitation in the Niger Delta". For the previous 6 years, I worked with an NGO in the Niger Delta (southern Nigeria) building an appropriate technology centre and program, that focused on WASH, energy, and agriculture. Conflict sensitivity, and gender mainstreaming were key tenets of our work. My research showed the critical importance of affordable, safe, effective, locally made options. People usually want to help themselves have a better life, but don't know where to turn. I learned many lessons, including the importance of having sensible options available, good information on practical solutions, demonstrations so people could see and feel technologies, training local business people to provide these options at reasonable prices, and learning from mistakes. This, together with the experiences of my colleagues and friends who have come together to form TI, is driving our vision for a future of better development practices. We highly value collaboration and seek partners with expertise in WASH, energy, and agriculture. We are also seeking like-minded existing centres who might wish to join our network. This initiative is all about dialogue, sharing, collaboration, and is very much a partnership of equals - Centres (we call them CTCs) sharing their knowledge with others and seeking help to find solutions suitable for their region. Then CTCs in turn sharing knowledge with their communities and seeking learning from them.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hi Nancy,

I work for OneVillage Partners, a community-led development organization currently operating in Sierra Leone. We partner with communities to identify their most pressing problems, and empower them to design and implement projects to address these problems. Through our partnerships with local communities, villages gain leadership capacity, social cohesion, and ultimately resiliency so that they can thrive without external intervention. Along the way, though, communities implement projects in WASH, education, agriculture, or another key area for development. I would see a lot of value in a locally-driven “one-stop shop” for local solutions. Do you have any plans to expand to Sierra Leone? Regardless, I’d love the opportunity to connect via phone to learn more about your model. I can be reached at


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