Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

How to Stimulate the Spread of Sustainable Change Without Additional Donor Intervention

One way to maximize the impact and longevity of USAID interventions is to build relationships between actors and to stimulate change in policy systems without taking a direct role in or becoming part of those systems. For example, the demonstration effect can be a helpful tool to change attitudes toward adopting new practices and investing in making changes. Interventions that employ this tool may be small but are effective because they leverage the actions of key players to bring about extensive and deep-seated systemic change. Within partner organizations, senior executives frequently express the most enthusiasm and interest in setting up programs to forge such partnerships and create new opportunities. However, they often lack the time to play the more hands-on role required to sustain programs. For this reason, they may not be the right interlocutors to facilitate and drive this kind of effort.

Photo: Women Agripreneurs share their successes and challenges at the Super Champions for Change Women's Conference, Accra, September 2016.

In view of this challenge, Africa Lead — Feed the Future’s Building Capacity for African Agricultural Transformation Program — reengineered its marketing strategy to, for example, target decision-makers at the management level. Decision-makers at this level often are more likely to be able to commit early in the process and to play a more practical, hands-on role in making program efforts such as initial launches a success.

In this way, the management level represents a leverage point, i.e., actors or relationships that stimulate the spread of change independent of further donor intervention. In Nigeria, for instance, Africa Lead supported the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to operationalize a results-oriented monitoring and evaluation approach. This effort was successful because it involved stakeholders at various levels in the change process that showed a commitment to serving as a good example for other departments. By targeting interventions at leverage points, the project increased the probability of reaching greater scale and sustainability of the change process.

The Ghana Livestock Development Network (GLIDEN), one of Africa Lead’s nine Champions for Change Networks, provides another example in which the right decision-makers were targeted as leverage points who committed to forging effective, lasting change. GLIDEN worked with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to bring together organizations in the livestock sector to review and suggest changes to an amendment in Ghana’s Livestock and Animal Production bill. Stakeholders consider the approval of this policy document, which reflects these suggested inputs, to be a huge success because it reiterates the commitment of the Government of Ghana to building the agriculture sector to its fullest potential. In this process, Africa Lead helped to create opportunities for partnerships while also promoting a lasting change in agriculture policy.

Ultimately, to promote sustainability as external players, USAID programs must seek to catalyze others in the system while not becoming part of it. It’s important to target and cultivate relationships with strong institutional leaders who will serve as advocates in driving systemic change adoption. These leaders buy into a shared understanding of what’s required to create an enabling environment for change. Some common qualities of successful champions follow: 

  • Results-oriented: Known for setting goals and seeking to achieve them.
  • Track record of positively completing projects undertaken and seeing them to fruition.
  • Consensus builder: Known for building consensus rather than being divisive.
  • Influential and networked: Acts as a decision-maker and respected driver of change within their organization or institution.
  • Committed: Agrees to help develop and implement critical initiatives within their organizations and act as a champion.
  • Creative: Has demonstrated transformative leadership qualities; is known for thinking outside of the box and considering alternatives.
  • Independent-minded: A recognized thought-leader and innovator.
  • Genuine interest in the training and capability to apply training skills.
  • Knowledgeable of program issues in the country.

Africa Lead supports the advancement of agricultural transformation in Africa as proposed by the African Union Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). Africa Lead also contributes to the Feed the Future goals of reduced hunger and poverty by building the capacity of Champions — i.e., men and women leaders in agriculture — and the institutions in which they operate to develop, lead and manage the policies, structures and processes needed for transformation.