Iraq Community Action Program
The Iraq Community Action Program (ICAP) helped foster democratic principles of governance at the grassroots level in Baghdad's 15 districts. The project worked with community action groups and local government councils and representatives to identify and prioritize needs for their communities and collaborate on projects that respond to these needs. Since its inception in 2003, ICAP has helped citizens determine, organize, and fund neighborhood priorities, including infrastructure and essential services projects such as building or repairing roads, markets, schools, and water and sanitation networks; developing small businesses; and assisting civilian victims of conflict, including internally displaced persons (IDP). ICAP also helped communities take steps to effectively communicate their needs to the Iraqi government.
ICAP fostered increased citizen participation in local governance by building the skills of community action group members to advocate on behalf of their communities. The project also worked with local neighborhood and district councils to strengthen public outreach so they can better understand and respond to citizen expectations. The improved interaction of citizens and councils helped create informed communities and increased the legitimacy of local government in the eyes of community residents.
ICAP was unique in allowing communities to choose the projects and activities that would most benefit residents while facilitating participation, buy-in, and cost sharing from local governments to ensure project sustainability. ICAP paid special attention to broadening citizen involvement, which it did through a training regimen that focused on communication, conflict mitigation, and inclusive citizen participation. A major indicator of success was the involvement of IDP in community action group activities. In Baghdad alone, more than half of the groups include IDP representatives.
Working with 115 community action groups throughout Baghdad—where 30 percent of Iraq’s citizens reside—ICAP provided training in areas such as leadership, transparency, advocacy, project design and monitoring, budgeting, and the roles and responsibilities of citizen representatives. The trainings encouraged development of more thoughtful and responsive community plans, and they also helped the all-volunteer community action groups see the way to a more sustainable future.
With an eye to diversifying their funding sources, the groups worked with ICAP advisors to fine-tune their governance structures, including bringing in new, more active members, documenting their planning processes, and developing a set of packaged project proposals—all of which were designed to attract support from a broader base of international funding agencies.
These initiatives paid off. Already, one community action group has registered as a nongovernmental organization, and several others have submitted applications to earn this formal status—a prerequisite for working with many international donors. Proof of their progress came at a recent ICAP-sponsored conference that, for the first time, brought together community action groups and major donors, including bilateral and multilateral agencies.
The Iraq Community Action Program was implemented by IRD from 2003 through 2012 with funding from the US Agency for International Development.
Community Governance Briefs
Beginning 2009, ICAP worked with community action groups to implement over 700 community infrastructure and supply projects, benefiting more than half-a-million Baghdad residents, all with government buy-in and support. To help document how it achieved this milestone, ICAP developed a series of community governance briefs on key project issues. In addition to the project overview, briefs are offered on topics including planning, advocacy, participation, engagement, and outcomes.