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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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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

This idea, implemented by OneVillage Partners (, is a leadership cohort of high-impact local leaders to enhance their leadership skills, connect with one another, and execute collaborative development projects.
In Sierra Leone, a plethora of aid activity has neglected communities’ involvement in the planning and decision making that significantly affects their lives and livelihoods. 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.
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 to engage communities in bigger and bolder projects to impact more lives, all while building leadership capacity and equity.
Our idea is to naturally grow this capacity to address problems that persist beyond the village level. 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
3. Connections to technical expertise and funding resources to access directly through the platform.

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 volunteer leaders identify as a leader in their community
Social cohesion: 95% of volunteers continue meeting after project concludes.
Gender equity: 98% of women in our empowerment program 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, but 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 through May, 2018, 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 demonstrating success at mobilizing their communities in designing and implementing 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 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 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!

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