Reaching almost 4 million people at the end of 2012, participatory governance interventions are at the core of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)’s approach to rural development, particularly in Asia, where the investments made in local institutions of community governance are a defining characteristic of the Rural Support Programmes (RSPs).
AKF-supported village organisations and interest groups, are considered essential to the legitimacy and sustainability of activities and often provide the entry point for other sector interventions. Village organisations are formed through community level elections for office holders who then lead the formulation of a community development plan. The plan defines the priorities and support (technical, financial and human resources) which a community will need to realise its development vision. AKF then works with the community to implement and resource activities in support of that plan, often in partnership with local government. Over the past 30 years, participatory governance interventions have been remarkably successful. Across the majority of country programmes, there are numerous representative and increasingly sustainable institutions focused on strengthening service delivery and community engagement in rural development, health and education. Key highlights include:
- The replication of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme’s (AKRSP) Local Support Organisation (LSO) model across Pakistan – so that 5 million households are now represented through a network of 765 LSOs;
- The establishment of 1,522 elected community development councils (CDCs) in Afghanistan, which are increasingly strong institutions of local governance;
- The block-level federations supported by AKRSP India in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, of which 80% are now financially self-sufficient.