Local organizations often operate with relatively limited and/or short-term funding. P/CVE projects are especially susceptible to limited and short-term funding cycles since these projects require sustained engagement and longer-term programming to address complex VE drivers. Therefore, consider different strategies for self-sustainability as you plan your P/CVE project during the Assess phase and throughout implementation.
What Does Sustainability Mean?
In the context of our work, sustainability is typically sought at three different levels:
What does it mean?
Even when project activities cease, in most cases the activities can still have an impact. For example, an organization concluding a training project may be unable to train new individuals, but all participants trained during the project can continue to apply their skills and knowledge.
How can you advance it?
The design of the project can contribute to the sustainability of its results:
What does it mean?
Sustainability of project activities may refer to continuing the same activities funded under the project, replicating activities in additional locations and/or implementing appropriate follow-on activities. For example, if a project provides support for a youth center to start a photography club, then sustaining project activities could mean the club is able to continue functioning and to engage more youth in photography.
How can you advance it?
Project activities can be sustained through:
What does it mean?
This refers to the ability of the organization itself to continue to operate and implement other activities in the future. For example, the organization has financial resources and organizational capacities needed to sustain its work.
How can you advance it?
Organizational sustainability could include investing in:
Organizational assessments could be very useful for an organization to identify capacity needs and develop a plan to respond to these needs. Please refer to the Implementation Tip below.
Tools for Assessing Capacity
Interested in assessing your organization’s capacity in seven core operational areas – including governance, human resource management, and financial management? Check out the Organizational Capacity Assessment tool.
Interested in developing your organization’s technical capacity in youth programming? Check out the Youth Programming Assessment Tool that allows organizations to reflect upon their own internal programming and institutional practices in order to operationalize Positive Youth Development (PYD) with the ultimate goal of improving programming to enhance developmental outcomes for youth.
HOW CAN YOU PROMOTE SUSTAINABILITY THROUGHOUT THE PROJECT CYCLE?
Identify existing activities your project could build on or partners you could engage.
Incorporate capacity building or community collaborative planning for sustainability into the design of your project.
Engage community stakeholders in implementing initiatives to promote local ownership.
Identify lessons from programming that you can share with others to sustain and expand P/CVE results.
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Document P/CVE results to demonstrate your activities’ positive impact and make the case for additional funding to continue your P/CVE efforts.
Why is sustainability important for P/CVE projects?
Violent extremism is a very complex phenomenon, and VE drivers cannot usually be addressed through just one activity or project. Sustained engagement and targeted programming over a longer period is often needed to see meaningful changes in perceptions, attitudes, or behaviors at the individual level or to address structural issues that make a community vulnerable to VE. Moreover, short-term projects that are not designed and implemented in a way that ensures sustainability might unintentionally exacerbate grievances or issues. For example, a project that starts a youth club but does not plan for how activities can continue once project funding ends, could cause harm when youth who were highly engaged and motivated again feel helpless and disadvantaged when that supportive structure closes.
Accordingly, when discussing P/CVE projects, we can focus on the first two levels of sustainability:
- Sustainability of results so that your project, including short-term activities, is designed and implemented to contribute to long-term impact that can affect complex drivers
- Sustainability of activities so that any initiatives you start that would be valuable to continue past the project’s end are designed and implemented in a way that advances their sustainability
How can I advance sustainability of project results and/or activities?
There isn’t one way or a formula for promoting sustainability. Each project must identify the different actions it will take to advance the sustainability of its results or activities.
Communities are more likely to sustain activities that they have participated in designing and/or implementing, that they perceive as responsive to a need they’ve identified, and that they feel a sense of ownership over. Moreover, as you design and implement your activities, you can engage stakeholders and partners to plan how you can continue the activities once initial funding ends. For example, can they contribute space, expertise, equipment, or funds to help sustain the project?
It is important for your organization to document lessons as it implements P/CVE activities (refer to the Learn Module for more information on the role of learning in implementation). Then you can share these lessons and related information with other stakeholders and partners in your community. This exchange of information could contribute to sustainability in various ways, including:
- Helping you identify potential partners who have interest in supporting your activity
- Allowing others to learn from your work and possibly use this information in their own related P/CVE work, thereby increasing the potential that your results will be sustained
- Allowing you to demonstrate to other organizations, including possible donors, your experience in P/CVE work so they look at you as a potential partner on P/CVE efforts
Capacity building is important to promote ownership and to ensure that the knowledge and skills necessary for P/CVE efforts can continue to be practiced in the community. Capacity building could focus on:
- Advancing understanding of VE and P/CVE among community stakeholders to enable these stakeholders to contribute to the design and implementation of effective P/CVE projects that account for local context
- Building specific technical skills needed to sustain an activity that the project started: Using the example of the photography club to engage marginalized youth, the project would build the capacity of the youth center facilitators on effective youth engagement, participatory activity design and planning and photography, techniques to ensure the youth center is able to continue engaging youth through the club
- Promoting knowledge of and capacity in topics that could contribute to sustainability: These could include outreach to diaspora groups, lobbying of municipalities, private sector engagement, diversifying funding, strategic planning, etc.
Clustering, layering, and sequencing of activities to promote sustained engagement and lasting results
The USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) takes an incremental approach to programming in the CVE domain. According to this approach, an OTI project could implement different rounds of small short-term activities, using each activity and series of activities to adapt and plan the one following it. While this approach would allow for learning and adaptability in implementation, it presents a key challenge to sustainability: how can the results generated by small investments (activities) persist once the funding for that activity comes to an end? OTI’s experience indicates that “potential disjointedness in programming and the critical mass challenge can be mitigated if programmers think early on and systematically throughout programming about how short-term, relatively modest interventions can be sequenced and layered so as to build on each other and pave the way to the desired CVE outcome.” This approach can be valuable for local civil society organizations if they can only implement small short-term projects due to funding limitations but want to ensure the result from each project contributes to a more long-term CVE outcome. For more information on the use of clustering, layering, and sequencing in P/CVE activities, check out the OTI CVE Toolkit and the Innovative Approaches to CVE Programming.
Even if you take all the necessary steps to plan for the sustainability of your existing P/CVE work, you might still need to find additional funding to continue or expand your work. Consider the following guidance on funding:
- Partner with development actors working on P/CVE. These actors could include international donors, international development organizations, regional networks, or national and local civil society organizations. While there is no comprehensive list of actors, this illustrative list includes organizations that have promoted networking and exchange among P/CVE actors in specific sectors or regions.
- Partner with your community to advance P/CVE. Your organization can harness resources from within your community to support P/CVE initiatives or activities that advance P/CVE outcomes. Community resources may include ideas, time, technical expertise, cash donations, or-in kind contributions. For example, Crowdfunding capitalizes on growing social media usage by using different online platforms to connect new ideas, projects, or campaigns to possible donors. These donors may be within the community, have ties with the community, or just be interested in contributing to the concept for which funds are being raised. For more information, refer to: UNDP Financing Solutions for Sustainable Development – Crowdfunding