Connecting CDD Practitioners across Asia and the Pacific: Sharing Lessons and Fostering Innovation on Community Driven Development
This week, the Community Driven Development Global Solutions Group hosted the fourth Asia Pacific regional conference on community-driven development (CDD) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The four-day conference brought together 65 participants, including government delegations from 15 countries across the Asia Pacific region implementing CDD programs. In addition, participants included Bank TTLs and resource persons from a range of Global Practices, as well as from outside the Bank. The goal of the conference was to continue to deepen a regional peer exchange network begun in 2013, by reflecting on lessons learned, discussing recent innovations, and finding ways to apply lessons across different CDD programs.
Following a request from participants at the last conference (held in 2016 in Sapa, Vietnam), this year's conference focused in particular on the topic of local economic development, looking at different ways that countries have used CDD approaches to support livelihoods and job creation to benefit poor rural communities. Participants shared experiences, both from within the region (such as India's Jeevika project) and beyond (for example the approach to building productive alliances in Bolivia) and reflected on how to apply these lessons to emerging programs in contexts as varied as the Solomon Islands, Myanmar and Indonesia.
In addition to technical discussions, the conference included a field visit to villages that had participated in the country's Gemi Diriya project, where participants had a chance to meet with community members and hear about the impact of the project, which even today – four years after its closing – continues to see community groups working actively together, generating income through community finance organizations.
In describing is experience, a delegate from Afghanistan noted: "The great opportunity this week is to learn from others, to get ideas and to avoid repeating their mistakes." Similarly, a participant from the Solomon Islands observed "the model of productive alliances used in Latin America is one we are working on here as well. Our products are different, but the principle is the same and it is great to see the potential of where we can go."
Indeed, this focus on peer learning and establishing a peer-exchange network across the Asia Pacific region is at the core of this series of conferences, organized by the CDD Global Solutions Group, in partnership with Australia's DFAT. The conference used a range of formats, from small groups discussions to speed meetings, caravan presentations and plenary discussions to engage participants and foster connections. An active Facebook group helped to ensure that the connections will remain alive beyond the week, and offered a forum for discussions and connections.
For me, participating in this conference has been tremendously rewarding, not only because we heard from countries tackling issues of community development around the world, but because I saw the commitment to continued learning, adaptation and innovation on the part of both government counterparts and Bank. I look forward to seeing this conversation continue, including over emails, Facebook and video conferences as government delegates continue to stay in touch and maintain this vibrant community of practitioners to improve the lives of poor communities across Asia and the Pacific. The potential payoff for this investment is significant – the Bank has an active CDD portfolio of $10.9 billion in EAP and SAR. But this is a shared undertaking – governments and other development partners have matched this financing, investing $11.1 billion of their own money. So shared learning, innovation and the increased results that follow are very much a shared endeavor.