A Critical Review of Community-Driven Development Programs in Conflict-Affected Contexts

After participating in two rigorous impact evaluations of Community-Driven Development/Reconstruction (CDD/R) in Liberia and the DRC, the IRC and DFID embarked on this review as a next step in learning and to inform design and evaluation strategies. They also wanted this review to next step in learning and to inform design and evaluation strategies for new CDR programming in Somalia. According to rigorous impact evaluations from programs in Afghanistan, the DRC, Indonesia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and interviews with practitioners, policymakers, and academics, the record of CDD/R in conflict-affected contexts is mixed and, overall, disappointing in terms of reaching the ambitious goals set out. As currently designed, implemented, and evaluated, CDD/R is better at generating more tangible economic outcomes than it is at generating social changes related to governance and social cohesion, although even the economic effects are found in just a few studies. Moreover, CDD/R programming is better at producing outcomes directly associated with the project rather than broader changes in routine life. A variety of issues related to program design merit rethinking: the relatively short timeline of CDD/R projects, the small size of block grants, the limited reach of the projects, the menu restrictions on CDD/R programming, the limitations of social infrastructure, the quality and intensity of social facilitation, the manner in which communities are conceptualized, which are often not meaningful to participants, and how community institutions build on existing institutions and relate to the state.

The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.