Community Revitalization through Democratic Action
CRDA began as a community mobilization initiative and evolved to emphasize economic development and job creation. In Serbia and Montenegro CRDA worked with communities to revitalize basic infrastructure, promote economic and agricultural development, expand access to healthcare and other social services, and strengthen grassroots understanding of democracy and civil society. The USAID-funded project operated from 2001 through 2007.
Montenegro’s development of communities and civil society were an important achievement. In Serbia, the program contributed more financial resources to communities, individuals, and small enterprises than any other donor program, touching nearly every municipality in the country in many different ways. In both countries community groups are now trained in new skills such as proposal development so they can obtain funding for projects from a variety of sources, particularly the European Union. Associations and cooperatives formed under CRDA are still operating, expanding, and earning income. And new medical equipment, maternity wards, and hospitals are now used to diagnose and treat women’s health conditions.
Achievements in Serbia
- Water now flows in towns that had lacked running water for over two decades.
- Local development plans were designed by six municipalities.
- Infrastructure improvements have led to foreign investment in some target municipalities.
- Small and medium enterprise grantees continue to benefit economically, such as a thriving shoe factory that was able to expand its space and staff.
- A renovated agriculture development center now supports more farmers and associations than before.
- The Belgrade Youth Center has been rehabilitated, once again serving as a focal point for cultural events in the city.
- Several kindergartens and schools were reconstructed and a new kindergarten was built in Valjevo.
Another indicator of CRDA’s success was the steady rise in the percentage of project costs met by clients. Community matching requirements and private donations totaled US$20.1 million of in-kind or cash contributions (averaging 41 percent match), well over the USAID-required 25 percent minimum.
Achievements in Montenegro
- Olive groves, vineyards, and related industries were revitalized.
- Social infrastructure was improved, including schools, health facilities, sports centers and fields, recycling centers, historical monuments, sidewalks, public lighting, and rural reservoirs.
- Advancement of ecotourism included new visitor centers at Skadar Lake and coastal hiking trails.
- Support allowed agricultural associations to procure equipment for improving harvests.
CRDA afforded many learning opportunities for IRD and the wider development community. Important outcomes for IRD’s organizational learning included the establishment of well-functioning model guidelines and procedures for administrative, financial, and project management. Equally important were systems and guidance for allocation of grants to beneficiaries. These clear, transparent procedures were appreciated not only by IRD staff but also by regular citizens in the post-Milosevic era.
At the community level, the programs helped put in place methodologies to solve problems and prioritize activities for competitive advantage, fostered greater citizen participation in civil society, facilitated communication and cooperation between different community sectors through community committees and local economic development teams, and facilitated the development of different social sectors.
There were many specific lessons learned over the life of the project.
Work with Communities
- Coordinate program plans and strategies and integrate strategic vision with local government revitalization efforts.
- Clarify project details and objectives with the community up front.
- Continually analyze community needs and problems.
- Develop an exit strategy to wean communities off donor funding, including linking communities with local and national organizations with similar goals, joining efforts with local governments, increasing in-kind and financial contributions to 50 percent or more, and limiting project size.
- Build community capacities in advocacy and fundraising to complement training in proposal writing.
- Link training outputs more directly with funding opportunities.
- Establish a communication/media strategy for different target groups.
- Use the media to advertise programs and projects and their successes in the early program stages.
- Monitoring and Evaluation
- Retrain users when aspects of a project reporting system change significantly.
- Reinforce a robust monitoring and evaluation system, with adequate training for its users.
- Facilitate cross-country exchanges and information sharing to ensure the dissemination of better practices in multi-country programs.
- Recognize volunteers publicly and compensate them when feasible for expenses.
- Engage high-quality consultants to guide donors on future strategic actions.
- Build team spirit through structured events.