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Pooja is the Communications Coordinator at Restless Development India.

Development is vastly complex. It promises to transform the lives of billions of people and create solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.  

But development has a big problem. Since the inception of the United Nations in 1945, the development sector has more often than not positioned the Global North a givers and Global South as recipients.

A lot has changed since 1945, and it’s time we begin to work differently.

Currently, the majority of programmes delivered or funded have a pre-defined impact and the approaches lack the involvement of communities. This removes the ownership to build a real, sustainable change at the heart of the communities.

To many, development is still seen as a notion of an outsider coming and revamping the community – a version of development that only lasts until the outsider leaves the community.

Imagine if we had an alternative way of doing development. What if we could start fresh and re-write the approaches to development so that young people and their communities lead and take ownership of programmes.

Restless Development is coordinating a consortium of eight partners to develop these approaches and create an ‘alternative to development as usual’.

If we get it right, young people, their communities and civil society based in the global south will define, design and lead development.

However, these new approaches to development must be co-designed with young people, their communities, and civil society organisations from the global south.

The Development Alternative consortium will support youth-centered and youth-led civil society organisations in the global south to design approaches that ensure young people and their communities define, own and lead solutions to the problems they face.

Work has already begun with a co-design New Delhi in December last year. The workshop brought together 35 young people and representatives from over 40 organisations – civil society organisations, funders, and INGO partners.

Discussions ranged through their personal experiences, to imagining a world with youth leading change and delivering ideas built on co-designed development programmes.

We asked our partners to break out into groups respond to the question of what barriers are faced by civil society organisations, and what solutions could be put into place.

Some of the key barriers put forward are:

  1. Decision making power dynamics; where young people and CSO voices and opinions are limited.
  2. Shrinking space for CSOs within governments and in the corporate sector
  3. Restricted funding and donor driven projects versus community driven projects.

Some of the key solutions put forward are:

  1. Young people need to lead – there should be affirmative action for young people to take roles within the Government and decision making platforms/tables
  2. Power in consortiums – looking at partnerships to co-create, adapt and have constant conversations within the sector. Providing strong links with government, donors and other csos where there is desire to strengthen partnerships and leverage on expertise as opposed to working in silos
  3. A need for innovative donors that fund movements, alliances, and unrestricted ideas that can change the system.
  4. Donors need a more nuanced understanding of how they fund programmes born in the global south, and a partnership understanding of how they work with CSOs rather than a donor-driven accountability.

Restless Development will soon organise more such consultations in Madagascar, Uganda and Iraq and start building evidence and approaches that can be tested and rolled out across the development sector.

Find out more about The Development Alternative.

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