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A Platform to Amplify Community-led Leadership and Development

A platform for rural leaders to enhance leadership skills, connect with one another, and execute collaborative development projects.

Photo of Jill LaLonde
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

We modified several aspects of our original map based on participant feedback to arrive at this iteration. Specifically, users recommended explicitly engaging the entire community throughout the program, not just the leadership cohort. They told us partnership and role clarity must be planned and intentional between communities, the leadership cohort, and government entities, which we expanded upon. Users also requested specific skills and technical support to be included in training.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Community members describe the plethora of NGO activity after the civil war and how the results of these activities are no longer apparent. There are many basic needs that remain unmet, and there are few opportunities to make real progress or for individuals to engage in finding solutions. They convey the urgency and importance in making decisions as a community and the need to effectively work together with local governing bodies to achieve their goals.

Communities speak of their peace and productivity in religious diversity and about their ability to mobilize existing youth, women or other groups to implement a project. They recognize that social capital exists and can be strengthened and leveraged to achieve big goals. Once communities define a problem and thoughtfully and positively work together, it is easier for them to do this again.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Many post-civil war and post-Ebola projects had defined goals before entering communities, often emphasizing outputs over sustainability. Compounding this, there have been few opportunities for rural people to define their own success and share their ingenuity and solutions with one another. There are limited opportunities to engage productively with local government, and few, if any, opportunities to connect with technical expertise and funding opportunities to achieve a vision for the future.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

1) Local leaders can define problems and roll out solutions, and – perhaps most importantly – monitor and sustain the results. By activating leadership, social cohesion, gender equity, and resilience, communities can thrive with less external support, while producing evidence supporting a community-led approach to poverty-reduction.

2) Village leadership and local government can interact, leading to more responsive, action-oriented, and inclusive leadership.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

See attached table for select project indicators and targets.
Current village-level results to date include:
Basic needs: A 71% reduction in diarrheal occurrence and 185% increase in latrine access when communities implemented WASH projects.
Inclusive leadership: 94% of cohort identify as leaders
Social cohesion: 95% of cohort continue meeting post-project
Gender equity: 98% of women in our empowerment cohort increased public participation
95% past-project sustainability

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Many users expressed a desire to work closely with other communities, citing the natural partnership, close proximity and shared needs, but also a need to be intentional. For example, they indicated that partnerships would need to occur between villages in the same Chiefdom to avoid governance issues. They indicated role clarity, fair and transparent resource allocation, and conflicts of interests as areas for focus both in our program adaptations – which we have responded to - and in our continued conversations.

Additionally, while the users highlighted skills from OneVillage Partners projects and their engagement to date; they made it clear that they would require specific technical support to be successful in this next phase. As such, we have incorporated additional skills into the leadership cohort training, such as report template making, linkages to suppliers for project supplies and linkages to government entities.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Our Programs Team has five years of experience working alongside community leaders as they create and execute projects that meet needs and address underlying structures that limit opportunity. In this capacity, they exercise flexibility, creativity, patience, and understanding. Our team is adept at communicating using accessible language and participatory methods. Our staff are in the field on a daily basis, listening and making inclusive decisions with the community.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

BridgeBuilder funds would support the build out of this program: development of leadership training; materials and expertise for convening; regular meeting and networking opportunities for the leadership cohort; grant funding for communities to access as they develop village projects; iterating this idea with a pilot group and scaling to a larger rollout.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1) Communities have identified a need to be very intentional in partnering with one another. In addition to defining roles, resource allocation, and treatment of conflicts of interest upfront, what other aspects of partnership should we explore to best set the cohort up for success?

2) What are the key considerations we should explore in OneVillage Partners managing the grant fund vs. connecting communities directly to potential funders? Is a hybrid approach realistic?

3) How do we create a leadership cohort that can sustain itself long after OneVillage Partners involvement? What key skills or systems need to be emphasized?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

We modified several aspects of our original concept based on feedback. One of the key changes we made to the program in response to this feedback was to very intentionally involve the entire community throughout the program, not just the leadership cohort. Additionally, we defined when and how local government will be involved and what the purpose of this engagement will be. We iterated on the objectives of the leadership training curriculum to incorporate specific skills and technical support that participants indicated would be the most useful to them.

Other feedback has given us direction on continued refinements. For example, we have defined and will continue to refine the ways in which we will monitor and evaluate success to ensure focus on short- and long-term outcomes, measuring both systems change and also progress toward meeting basic needs. We have also gathered invaluable information how we can effectively manage a grant fund and connect to funding partners.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

There have been several comments about monitoring and evaluation, and we can provide some additional context and information here.

This idea builds off of what we have learned and heard from communities in our current village-level partnerships, which address both structural and quality of life issues. As described above, we have measured success in catalyzing structural change; for example, 98% of women in our empowerment cohort increased public participation. We also see evidence to support the idea that by addressing the larger system, communities will better be able to meet basic needs. For example, we have seen a 71% reduction in diarrheal occurrence where communities have implemented WASH projects. In addition to what we measure at an organizational level, for each project that communities design, they define and monitor their own measures of success.

Through this new program, we will convene proven village-level leaders on a larger scale to implement bigger and bolder projects. We hypothesize that this program will build the strength and sustainability of our current village-level results as we work toward thriving rural communities, and we intend to continue measuring outcomes as defined in our Theory of Change.

95% of past projects we have implemented are sustainable - they are currently functioning and being maintained by communities today. If communities can continue progressing toward inclusive leadership, gender equity, social cohesion and resilience, they will be equipped to continue addressing their own challenges with less reliance on external assistance.

Additionally, we will build out specific metrics for monitoring success and outcomes from this new program (some examples are attached). This includes evaluating additional structural and behavioral changes that we specifically target, as well as progress toward meeting basic needs and reducing poverty overall (such as through additional health, education, and income specific indicators).

While we recognize the incredible value in a disciplined, metric-driven approach, we also understand there are limits to what the numbers can tell us and more traditional monitoring and evaluation can leave out the voices of those impacted. As one way to address this, we adapted the Most Significant Change (MSC) methodology as an inclusive and participatory qualitative tool for participants to share personal stories of change (both positive or negative) they experienced from our work. We put together an MSC implementation guide for others who may be interested in this approach, which can be found here -

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

This idea, implemented by OneVillage Partners (, is a leadership cohort of high-impact local volunteers to enhance skills, connect with one another, and execute collaborative development projects.
This program tackles several problems:
1. Lack of community and cross-community involvement in development project design and implementation.
2. Limited opportunities for communities to learn from and leverage the ingenuity of their neighbors.
3. Dearth of external and government resources available for community-designed projects.
This platform will address these problems by creating an opportunity for village-level leaders to convene, identify needs, design projects, and execute development projects, while connecting with local elected officials to bolster collaboration.
OneVillage Partners has a network of 17 adjacent rural community partners and 23,270 individuals in Kailahun District, Sierra Leone, who have already succeeded in developing and executing inclusive development projects in their villages. However, a village-level approach is limiting in reach. We believe we can build on the capacity that already exists and accomplishments at the village-level to engage communities in bigger and bolder projects to impact more lives, all while building leadership capacity and equity.
Our idea is to grow this capacity to address problems that persist beyond the village level, such as poor public health, limited educational opportunities, and few outlets to diversify income. We aspire to serve as a platform and connector for communities and proven leaders within these communities to collaborate and continue their own development. Our idea includes three activities:
1. Leadership development training cohort for proven, village-level leaders;
2. Platform for cross-village engagement and resource sharing among neighboring communities and local government; and
3. Connections to technical expertise and funding resources

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

We currently work with 23,270 individuals in 17 villages in rural Sierra Leone, many of whom are survivors of the civil war and were impacted by the Ebola outbreak in 2013. Each community nominates 12 volunteer leaders (6 women, 6 men) to represent them in project design and implementation.
We plan to invite 36 of these volunteer leaders to participate in the leadership cohort in pilot year one, and 72 will participate in year two, representing a total population of 8,490. We expect the benefits we have seen in our village-level work will be reinforced and deepened through cross-community engagement. Some of our village-level outcomes that we currently see and expect to amplify for this new phase are:
Strong leadership: 94% of cohort identify as a leader in their community
Social cohesion: 95% of cohort volunteers continue meeting after project concludes.
Gender equity: 98% of women in our empowerment cohort increased public participation.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

First, we have demonstrated success in implementing this process on a village-level, so implementing regionally continues to build on the capabilities of our partner communities and is a natural progression of our organizational work. Secondly, within Sierra Leone, as in many developing countries, a non-governmental platform for community engagement – specifically one that is linked to international resources and support - does not exist. However, the creation of such a platform has the opportunity to engage proactive communities in achieving impact and development beyond their village boundaries. Lastly, we believe that we can serve a key role as a connector. As an international partner, we can have a louder voice in getting the attention of potential partners and funders who could establish direct relationships with the communities we are working with. Through building a strong network, we can help to set up our partner communities for success.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

At OneVillage Partners, we catalyze community-led transformation in rural Africa by engaging villagers in building thriving, connected and resilient communities.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

We had been exploring our “exit” – how we best assist our partner communities to continue development but also minimize donor dependence. After working with our partner communities, staff and Board of Directors through a strategic planning process, we realized that “exit” was a misnomer. We knew we couldn’t implement our current model in perpetuity, but also that as partners valuing sustainability, we needed to evolve our relationship with communities in new and exciting ways.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace: Implemented in a post-conflict and post-Ebola setting, our model brings together communities that were once divided – including marginalized individuals – which bolsters social cohesion. We build unity by creating a forum for everyone to work together.
Prosperity: Communities that work together can address shared challenges together. As communities become healthier, well-educated and better connected to opportunity, they also become more productive and in turn, generate wealth. Learning hard skills in budgeting and saving, targeted through women but including their families, contributes to thriving households.
Planet: We help communities realize and utilize their local assets in a sustainable way. The focus on active leadership drives villages to define their long-term vision for sustainable growth of their community.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our partner communities will be essential collaborators in refining this project idea and the specifics of how activities can be most impactful. Specifically, we will engage 12 volunteer leaders from each community who have already demonstrated success in mobilizing their communities to design and implement projects. Additionally, we expect to work closely with communities to define the details of the activities we have outlined. Through focus groups, user experience mapping and using motivational inquiry techniques with volunteer leaders and community members, a common vision can be set for what engagement will look like, directly shaping the activities that are implemented. Regular opportunities for feedback from partner communities throughout implementation will be critical for success.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The communities we work with have demonstrated incredible resiliency, ingenuity and hard work. There is also a history of traditional philanthropy. Prior to the civil war, communities had groups of individuals who together worked on various village development projects. Today, communities have this strength to build upon; opening up a platform for discussion can also include the younger generation eager for engagement and leadership roles to help improve their own communities.

Geographic Focus

17 rural villages in Kailahun District, Sierra Leone

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months
Year 1: Idea refinement and piloting with three communities. Define project success with community partners. Provide in-person cross-village leadership development training and open first funding opportunity.
Years 2-3: Refinement and scale. Seek feedback, learn and adapt the training, tools and process with participants. Expand the cohort to reach an additional six communities (representing 8,490 people). Open second funding opportunity. Determine viability and future scaling.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • Yes

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

Last year, we wanted to explore model expansion, but our ideas on this were premature. From November 2017 – May 2018, we engaged in an inclusive strategic planning process to define our organization value and direction. This process brought together staff, our Board of Directors and communities to develop a shared vision, which is grounded in our organizational values.

Last year, we proposed taking our model to a new geography to see if we could replicate the success we have seen in Sierra Leone. This year, we know that the value in what we do is in the strength of our relationships, local networks, and the skills and capacity we have seen develop in the communities we partner with. We would not have that social capital in a new location, and think there is a more effective way for us to add value as a development partner.

To be effective, we believe we need to invest in what is working and continue to strengthen existing capacity. We work with an incredible network of dedicated, local leaders who are hungry for new opportunities to develop, learn, network and grow. The strength of our organization is in our ability to provide these opportunities, by serving as a platform and connector, and amplifying the voices of our community partners.

This sentiment is reflected in our refined organizational mission of catalyzing community-led transformation in rural Africa. We envision the people of rural Africa engaged in building thriving, connected and resilient communities. We have also articulated our organizational values, which drive all that we do:

• Community-led. We believe thriving communities determine and lead their own future.
• Disciplined. We measure our impact and adapt our approach accordingly.
• Sustainability. We focus on lasting solutions.
• Equity. We seek the full participation of all people in our communities and programs.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Céline Steer

Empowerment! Leadership, facilitation, and inclusion are hugely important, and training to ensure stakeholders are involved on more than a name only basis is key to successful community driven effort. So happy to see that the focus of this project has shifted in this direction!
Good luck!
Wonderful! Keep going!

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Thank you very much for your encouragement and kind words, Celine!

Photo of Enrique  Olivarez

Hi Jill, this sounds like a great project! We are also similarly trying to invest in community leadership and building capacity of Latino immigrants here in the Twin Cities. I really like your idea for creating a platform for cross-village engagement and resource sharing among neighboring communities and local government. I think that makes a lot of sense and give folks another way to connect. Best of luck!

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Enrique, thank you so much for reviewing our idea and for your words of encouragement! It's great to learn of your organization and that you are also working within the Twin Cities. I'll take a look at your idea, too - I'm very interested to learn more about community-led organizations on the domestic side.

Photo of Sofía Unanue

Hi Jill LaLonde ! I think this is a great project. Our work also focuses on getting feedback from communities we work with to assess the needs and later develop plans that meet those. I am interested in learning more about how you do a needs assessment with your communities? What is the process of identifying the problem and if each community faces different problems how will that influence your approach? Also very interested in learning more about the tool you mentioned to connect the people with more information on what is happening locally in the government. We want to find ways to incorporate advocacy as well. Take a look at our model to engage communities after a natural disaster and tell us what you think:

Thank you for your work!
Sofia, La Maraña

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Sofia , thank you for reviewing our idea and for your great questions!

In terms of assessing needs: We use Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools to conduct a community-led needs assessment. This process includes information gathering on business activities, structures, community assets, health indicators, village history, leadership structures, development activities and existing challenges.

Following, communities construct social and resource maps within their village(s) to identify resources they have that can be leveraged to address development challenges.

Communities then create a problem tree to analyze core causes of their challenge(s) and the impact of the challenge(s). Using these assessments, conversation and analysis, communities work together to define their vision for the future and decide on a "priority challenge" they want to address. We then work closely with them in project design, introducing potential partners, innovative approaches and other ideas so that communities can think broadly about solutions and specifically about what will be most effective for their unique context.

How does this align or vary from your approach? I'd love to hear of any tools that have been effective for you. I'll also take a look at your project on the platform.

In terms of connecting with local government: We don't have a tool for this, per say, but we do approach connecting with local governing bodies intentionally. We attend monthly council meetings for a variety of local governing bodies, including WASH and District Councils. We take these opportunities to share reports and updates on progress and to use this as a platform to bring attention to our partner communities and the volunteer leaders within them, to raise the profile of our partner villages.

Additionally, when each project is completed, we organize community volunteers from the cohort and members of the Ward Development Committee (which is in charge of development activities) to share experiences, successes and challenges. It is also a platform where both groups come to better understand what each is working on, and build awareness of development activities the cohorts are leading across the District.

More recently, we have made introductions between the Ward Development Committee and our local volunteers who wish to become WDC appointees earlier on. Some have already been selected, and we plan to continue our focus here in coming years.

Integrating with local government - as you know well - comes with its fair share of challenges, including leadership transitions as we experienced in Sierra Leone just this year! For the proposed project, we're creating another level of interaction between the leadership cohort and local government, both in shared learning opportunities and project development on a larger scale.

Thank you again for your questions, and pleaselet me know if there's any additional information I can provide!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel

Hi there,

I want to begin by applauding you for your thoughtfulness, and particularly in your commitment to community-led solutions that empower and uplift existing efforts. I am impressed with your 50-50 gender split, I'd love to hear more about your experience in bridging gender gaps or challenges while choosing which leaders you are focusing on engaging. Have you encountered any pushback from communities that are traditionally patriarchal? Have you had to include any specific gender sensitization training? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Kathleen, thank you so much for your kind words and questions, which I have attempted to address below. Also, I love Yamba Malawi! I met Peter several months ago and am so impressed by your work and model. Wishing you all the best in the Improve Phase!

In terms of our experience bridging gender gaps, for us, this begins with establishing trust and modeling behavior. Our local team is intentionally consistent in all interactions, emphasizing transparency and the collaborative nature of our working relationship with communities over time. We focus on the benefits of working together and allow the gender mainstreaming process to evolve organically. As we build trust, communities become more open to listening.

We involve both men and women from the beginning and message and re-message that for the communities to be successful, they will have to be open-minded, thoughtful and reflective. By having equal women's participation in the leadership cohort from the beginning, women have a new platform and quickly prove their valuable contributions, which men are often not able to ignore! Women and men also both contribute significantly during project implementation. For example, for a WASH project, men may dig holes while women collect sand and stone. We take successful volunteers (both men and women) to neighboring villages to assist us in training up the next cohort of leaders.

In the second year of our village-level programming, we implement an 8-month picture-based women's financial literacy and empowerment program. Women set and achieve their financial goals (96% met their goal last year) and learn communication skills for their homes and communities. We involve husbands throughout the program and use this as a platform for household communication practice and gender sensitization. Last year, 98% of women in the program increased their public participation.

A strong relationship with key village authorities has also played a significant role. When chiefs see how involving women in decision making will benefit the whole village, they shift their own leadership behavior as well. This, of course, takes time, which is why our new program will intentionally build off of the work and social capital we have.

Absolutely, we have challenges and pushback. Men have been jealous and some have attempted to stop their wives from attending community meetings or being involved with the cohort. In working with new traditional leaders, it can take time to build trust. As we have become a more established presence in our district and communities have learned about how we work ahead of our official partnership, this has happened with much less frequency. Perhaps the biggest challenge - and one we haven't yet cracked - is that shifts in social norms take a long time, and we are figuring out how we best bolster equity that will sustain after our involvement. This is such a tough topic and one we are always learning and iterating on. I'd love to hear any additional thoughts, critiques, resources, or recommendations you might have that might improve our approach!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel

Hi Jill,

Wow! What a small world. Great to hear you were able to connect with Peter.

This is such a thoughtful response and I'm incredibly impressed with your efforts. In particular, I'd love connect further re: the financial literacy and empowerment resources you're team has developed. This financial management coaching is a critical aspect of our program as well (for both men and women caregivers), and I am incredibly interested in the image-based approach, as literacy is certainly a challenge we are facing. Our team is in the midst of developing a wide range of job-aids, documents, and image-based materials, and it could be interesting to compare notes!

If you're open to it, would it make the most sense to connect you to my colleague who is working on this side of our programming?

Thanks again for your thoughtful response and all the hard work you're doing. It's a marathon, not a sprint, but it's incredibly worthwhile!

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Kathleen,

It would be great to connect! On our side, it would probably make the most sense for your team to connect with either our Country Director or Program Director based in Sierra Leone. I'd be happy to make an introduction - just shoot me an email at, or share your colleague's email address, and I can reach out directly.


Photo of Kathleen Rommel

Great! My colleague Helen is probably the best person to start a conversation with regarding this side of our programs. She can be reached at

Thanks again for your help!

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Wonderful, thanks, Kathleen! I'm working with our Sierra Leone team to figure out the best person to connect. We'll be in touch soon!

Photo of Kathleen Rommel

Thanks! Looking forward. :)

Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh

Hi Jill as part of the Expert Feedback Phase I want to address your unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project below.

1) Communities have identified a need to be very intentional in partnering with one another. In addition to defining roles, resource allocation, and treatment of conflicts of interest upfront, what other aspects of partnership should we explore to best set the cohort up for success?

It is great what you are doing in the 17 rural villages in Kailahun District, Sierra Leone. I believe other aspects of partnership that you can perhaps explore to keep scaling up your impact on the ground is to text your model in other neighboring Africa countries or other districts in Sierra Leone. The needs and aspirations of every villages is different and listing to the villages elders and women is keys to long term success.

2) What are the key considerations we should explore in OneVillage Partners managing the grant fund vs. connecting communities directly to potential funders? Is a hybrid approach realistic?

Perhaps you can form farmers clubs, cooperative societies and women self help groups that are managed and run by the local communities living in your target villages that can take on small grants and use that pot of money as a revolving fund that continues to grow over time to seed other projects within the village and beyond.

3) How do we create a leadership cohort that can sustain itself long after OneVillage Partners involvement? What key skills or systems need to be emphasized?

Once you have trained these young men and women in your target villages they should go out and train others in neighbouring villages so you are able to created a multiplier effect that can really scale over time to the whole country beyond the scope and mandate of OneVillage Partners.

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Bremley,

Thank you very much for your response and ideas! In response:

Last year, we explored testing our model in a new country. Through a lot of reflection and strategic planning, we realize if we move or grow too quickly, we don't have social capital to build upon, which has been key to our current partnerships. In future years, we do hope to expand within Sierra Leone, and we will explore how to do that in a way that sets our communities and our partnership up for success.

I'm very intrigued by the idea of utilizing coops, VSLs or another community-based mechanism for our community partners to manage the grant fund independently. I'd love to explore this more. Do you know of any organizations that provide medium-sized grants to local communities in this way? I'd love to reach out and learn what has worked well for others.

On utilizing past/current participants to train new participants - absolutely! We envision this as a key component of the program and its sustainability. Do you have ideas on how we might structure this so over time, it may happen with less structure from us and more organically?

Thank you again for providing your feedback and insights!

Photo of Charles Zulanas

I like the community-led focus of the proposal and excited about how the idea will transform. I know that many leadership programs are often implemented without measurable outcomes. What are the measures that you intend to use to show that your organization has been successful?

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Charles Zulanas - thank you for reviewing our idea and your question on outcomes! We agree that our work must be both disciplined and evidence-based.

In our Theory of Change, we outline four target outcome areas, which we monitor and evaluate using a variety of indicators:

1. Inclusive leadership: Indicators include: % of volunteers elected to formal leadership roles; % change in female leadership roles.

2. Gender equity: Indicators include: % change in women's control of household income; % women increasing public voice.

3. Resilience: Indicators include: % increase in household savings; % project sustainability (currently 95%).

4. Social cohesion: Indicators include: % of villages where leaders report fewer communal disputes; % of volunteers who continue meeting after the project concludes.

For each individual project, communities do and will continue to define and monitor their own measures for success. These outputs and outcomes will vary depending on the technical area the project addresses. Example indicators are:

% of population utilizing clean toilets and hand-washing stations
% reduction in diarrheal illness
% increase in secondary school enrollment
% increase in income

In addition to the quantitative measures, we have adapted the Most Significant Change (MSC) methodology as an inclusive and participatory qualitative tool for participants to share personal stories of change (both positive or negative) they experienced from our work. We put together an MSC implementation guide for others who may be interested in this approach, which can be found here -

We are always learning, and I'd love to hear any ideas or resources you or others reading may have that could help us to measure our work more effectively. Thank you again!

Photo of Charles Zulanas

Those are great measures. Have you had success in the past measuring using these outcomes?
How many different groups use MSC? What are their results? I saw the different case studies of using the approach at the end of your step-by-step guide, but it seemed very time-intensive and the results did not seem motivating ( I just want to make sure that this method improves your funding opportunities or doesn't take significant resources to run a storyboard program like this without a significant positive result for your organization.
For example, a paper by Olivier Serrat, which is an author you referenced in your step-by-step guide but in a later published paper ( says the following about MSC:
"Further, although it can address what follows, the Most Significant Change technique should not be used to:
    Capture expected change.
    Prepare stories for public relations.
    Understand the average experience of stakeholders.
    Generate an evaluation report for accountability purposes.
    Conduct a quick evaluation.
    Conduct retrospective evaluation of a completed project or program."
I like the participatory aspect of the program and how you can receive qualitative data from this approach, but I am concerned about the time requirements that you might have to take to make this method successful versus just having a journalist or a writer write about some of your success stories based on participant survey feedback and word-of-mouth.
Using a human-centered design approach, you want to first think about the optimal result for the people in your communities. What do the people in your communities want? How can their wants be measured? Are you making any assumptions? Let me know if you have any questions.

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hi Charles,

Thanks for the wonderful resources and discussion! Yes, we have had success in measuring these outcomes, but we are always trying to improve them to reduce self-reporting measures, reduce monitoring burden and best demonstrate long-term behavior change and/or sustainability over a short-term success. So, the indicators are not perfect, but we keep testing and iterating to get to our best possible place on all things M&E. Do you have any recommendations on specific indicators - leadership or otherwise - that you think would be useful for us to explore?

Most Significant Change is one method in our toolbox, but as you've identified, it can by no means be a standalone activity. It has many limitations on the technical side that need to be complemented with other methodologies. So far, we have conducted MSC in 11 of our 17 partner communities. It does require a significant time commitment, and we have been exploring the best intervals for conducting the exercise. We originally conducted MSC after every program cycle, but are now scaling back in order to allow more time to pass for substantial change to take place before we ask community members to report out on it.

That said, there are some really important reasons for us to continue using MSC. One of our organizational values is that we are community-led. As such, the objective of our M&E activities overall is to make them as participatory and participant-led as possible. Even when we collect survey data, we always share it back with the community and have a discussion around what it means. We strive to be less extractive and more inclusive.

Community members tell us they appreciate MSC as it provides them with a platform to share their stories of personal development and/or group leadership with their community. When sharing the results of MSC, we use photographs from that specific community for each theme; often the community requests to keep these photos because they are proud of the changes that are occurring and they want to display the evidence to others. When participants share their MSC stories at the community meeting, they are animated and warmly received. Community members came up to our staff after the most recent MSC feedback session saying that in the next OneVillage Partners project, they wanted to be the ones with a story of change to tell. To the question, "What do the people in the communities want?" it is apparent they want a platform where they can be heard. For us, MSC has been a great tool to provide that.

The initial adoption of MSC as a methodology was a time-intensive process, but now that staff are trained and have experience in data collection, story writing, and story selection, the process runs smoothly and the results of MSC are multi-dimensional: they bolster community participation in evaluation, provide programmatic learning, and highlight success stories for communications purposes. The method also provides a great capacity building opportunity for our staff, they have made great improvements in story writing, a transferable skill.

Do you have ideas for how we might represent these sentiments above so we can strengthen our proposal? I welcome any feedback or ideas you have on bolstering the content.

I think I have hit on all of your questions and comments, but please let me know if I missed anything! Thanks again for the compelling questions and discussion.


Photo of Charles Zulanas

Traditionally, leadership programs do not measure results. I would recommend a pointed focus on results. You have great participation with over 23,000 participants. Increasing public participation and program sustainability are a good start and what might really cause some heads to turn is significant increases in some of the measures you had mentioned before, or others which should improve quality of life:
% of population utilizing clean toilets and hand-washing stations
% reduction in diarrheal illness
% increase in secondary school enrollment
% increase in income
% of villages where leaders report fewer communal disputes
% increase in household savings
If you already have these numbers of your successes in the past, they might improve your proposal. Thank you for being so cordial in your responses and please let me know if you have any questions.

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Thank you again, Charles. Great feedback, and we will incorporate the results we have into our proposal!

Photo of Donna Dalton

I've always been a fan of the OneVillage Partners' work. This new concept only builds on that fantastic work! You had asked about key considerations in OneVillage Partners managing the grant fund vs. connecting communities directly to potential funders? Is a hybrid approach realistic? One consideration is the amount of time that would be required of these communities to produce the accounting needed to meet expenditure responsibility or equivalency determination (the two methods that foundations utilize to give to non 501c3 entities). With small grants, the time required to produce reporting may make the net grant smaller than intended. If you decide that OneVillage manages the grant fund, it will be important for OneVillage to be the conduit of the relationship (meaning strengthening community to funder relationship) rather than the only keeper of the funder relationship. I know the concept of working in authentic partnership fits your values so well that you may have already created strategies to share the relationship.

Wishing you the best in this journey,
Donna Dalton

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hi Donna, thank you so much for the words of support and some considerations for the grant fund. We are beginning to work through prospective administrative and reporting requirements, and what might both build capacity and also meet leaders where they are at in terms of literacy, language skills and time. These are some great guiding considerations, and I may bug you offline with some more specific questions as we further develop these ideas with our community partners - I hope that's okay!

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)

This sounds like a critical project that will have amazing outcomes! Will you bring new leadership cohorts in as the project and organization grows, or will you focus on cultivating the initial cohorts that were selected?

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) thank you for your question. We plan to add new leaders to the cohort each year, and for experienced cohort members to take an active role in coaching and leadership development for new members. That way we can both continue cultivating initial cohort leaders while growing the cohort.

Photo of Anubha Sharma

leadership development in the local populace so they can take charge of their own issues, connecting communities and leaders across geographies providing opportunities to collaborate and share learning and a model that can be replicated across countless communities, you have cracked them all. congratulations on a wonderful project.

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Anubha Sharma thank you for your words of support!

Photo of Tuba Naziruddin

Congratulations Jill LaLonde ! Love that you have included so many details. Visualizing all the text will a user map as mentioned in the checklist will be great. Also since you have rolled out your idea, would love to see the feedback your received from the beneficiaries here, testimonials would be one way. Also can you elaborate on the purpose of seeking funding and how the funding would be used?

Photo of Gayanjith Premalal

Also Jill LaLonde , when creating your user journey map (or whatever that helps everyone to understand your proposal clearly from a user's point of view), I would like to see more about your on-boarding process. I saw in an video that the community that you are supporting is a male dominated community and due to that I do think that you would have to put some extra effort in, to on board the women. What do you think? Since you have already implemented and tested your idea, I think you might have the answer with you already. Curious to know :)

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Tuba, thank you for your comment and question! We received some really informative beneficiary feedback last week and are in the process of compiling to add to our post - I am excited to share our User Experience Map and what we have learned soon!

In terms of the funding, this is a new program for us which is not yet funded by our current donors. The funding would be used to build out and implement the program. Specifically, funding would cover costs related to the hiring and training of local staff to convene the leadership cohort, manage communications and logistics. Funding would cover the convening costs, including travel, venue, facilitation and supplies for each meeting. Finally, funds would be used to create a grant fund accessible to participants for the collaboratively designed projects. I hope I have answered your question, but please let me know if I can provide additional clarity.

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hello Gayanjith Premalal thank you very much for your question. We will certainly include additional information about the on-boarding process in our User Experience Map. As you've pointed out, the focus on equity needs to be intentional and targeted.

When we begin working with a new community, we convey the expectation that the community-nominated leadership group will be made up of six males and six females. This group works closely together in defining problems and designing solutions. Through this engagement, men and women, who traditionally may not collaborate with one another, practice working together and being leaders together. Women also become visible leaders in their community.

In the second year of our village-level partnership, once we have built a level of trust, we implement an 8-month women's financial literacy and empowerment program. This is an entirely picture based curriculum to teach illiterate women basic financial principals and the ways in which they can plan and manage finances throughout the year to reach their goals and inform household financial decision making. As women gain knowledge, they also gain confidence to use their voice, and they become respected and supported as financial decision makers, leading to greater gender equity in the household and community.

This curriculum was developed in response to an identified, systematic gap that OneVillage Partners staff saw during community-project implementation – women were most frequently bystanders but not active participants in community meetings and project planning. We have witnessed a shift community-wide gender norms; in 2017, 98% of our women's program graduates increased their public participation, and 96% achieved their personal financial goal.

We believe the foundation that communities have built at the village-level - in terms of equity and skills - will propel the impact leaders can make beyond the village level, as we have proposed in this idea. That said, your comment is well-taken, and we need to keep focused and intentional around the equity piece and demonstrate this in our visual.

Photo of Proterra

Jill LaLonde 
Congratulations on a great project! We both consider necessary to work with leaders for communities integral developement. I wonder if you plan to work with youngsters we've seen incredible potencial and interest from them in these type of initiatives. Also, can you please explain how the plataform addressses the leadership skills? As we are doing someting similar, we can share some ideas.

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Proterra thank you for reviewing our project and for the questions! We don't directly target youth, though frequently our village-level volunteer cohort will bring youth into coordinated sensitization and in helping with message delivery, which we have found to be very impactful, particularly when the community is seeking wide-scale behavior change.

The leadership platform is an opportunity for the cohort to share their own experiences in leading development projects in their village. In leading those development projects, they had to develop effective public speaking abilities, be able to facilitate community meetings, and demonstrate proficiency in needs assessments in the community. In terms of more formal training, we train leaders on participatory rural appraisal methods, so they can bring out knowledge from the local community. We also train in specific planning and budgeting tools that they use to implement the project. We use picture-based tools for all trainings, so that the skills are accessible by all regardless of literacy level.

For this idea, we intend to build out additional training opportunities for a regional leadership cohort, so we can build on demonstrated village-level skills and create the opportunity and network for leaders to utilize these skills on a larger scale.

I would be very interested in ideas and/or tools that you have - please do share!

Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED

Congratulations! As a Community Economic Development specialist, I deeply resonate with your project focus on community leadership and development.I was especially impressed with how well you documented your vision, mission, strategies and proven capabilities and the way you answered the question "Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project". Best wishes for your ultimate success!

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Thank you very much for your note and encouragement! It has been a continual work in progress for us to refine the way we talk about our work, and to best communicate the long-term outcomes we are working toward while conveying the short-term successes that come along with it. We recently went through a strategic planning process to help us articulate our mission, vision and values, so I'm pleased that these jumped out at you!

Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED

Thank you Jill, I am honored to be added to your team! I have some contacts and resources related to leadership and leadership development, and many more on community economic development that MIGHT be useful. What is the best way to communicate that type of information?

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hi Charles,
Thank you so much! You can send by email - - or we could set up a time to talk. Whatever you prefer.

Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED

Thank you Jill for sharing your email. Mine is We would be honored to join your support team IF invited and would be honored if you might be interested in joining our team for Facilitating Prosperity, Peace and Planetary Sustainability by Providing Expanded Access to Successful Life, Work & Entrepreneurship Skills!

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Wonderful - thanks, Charles! I would be pleased to join your team as well.

Photo of Shikha Dixit

Hi, Jill! We concur with your idea that there is a need to strengthen the capacity of local leaders. This seems to be an effective way for sustainable development in deprived communities. In the idea that we have proposed, we have highlighted the same issue and have suggested a way to strengthen collective leadership and decision-making in rural India. It would be really great to have your feedback on our approach. I sincerely feel this would help strengthen its cross-cultural generalizability.
Thanks and Best Wishes,

Photo of Jill LaLonde

Thank you very much for your review and comment, Shikha. I have left a note for you on your idea page, and welcome any feedback or ideas you have on our idea, too!

Photo of Angi Yoder Maina

Hi Jill LaLonde 

I lived and worked in Kailahun District for almost 2 years almost 15 years ago. It is one of my heart places!

It may be of interest to connect wtih John Caulker of Fambul Tok. The Fambul and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Sierra Leone has developed the Wan Fambul Framework seeking to bring development to the doorsteps of the average Sierra Leonian. Kailahun district has been a pilot district for the last two year. You can find out more about the local governance initiative on this challenge page or if you want let me know and I can put you directly in contact with John.

All the best,


Photo of Jill LaLonde

Hi Angi,
Wonderful you were able to spend some time in Kailahun District! Thank you so much for the referral. I left a note for John and would love to connect with him and Fambul Tok to share what we are all learning and explore how we might collaborate with one another.