The Hunger Project works in partnership with grassroots people in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop effective bottom-up strategies. We have discovered three critical elements that, when combined, empower people to make rapid progress in overcoming hunger and poverty:

The Hunger Project's approach is different from the conventional, top-down planning used by many development agencies and governments. These top-down approaches follow a service-delivery model and often undermine our most important resource: the creativity and self-reliance of people living in conditions of hunger and poverty themselves.

The below table shows why the top-down, service-delivery approach so often fails, and why the bottom-up, empowerment approach succeeds.

Service Delivery vs. Empowerment

The Conventional Top-Down, Service-Delivery ModelThe Hunger Project’s
Bottom-Up Empowerment Model
Who are hungry
Beneficiaries whose basic needs must be met.Principal authors and actors in development — hardworking, creative individuals who lack opportunities.
What must be done?Provide services through government or charities.Mobilize and empower people’s self-reliant action, and stand in solidarity with them for their success.
What’s the primary resource for development?Money and the expertise of consultants and program managers.People: their vision, mobilization, entrepreneurial spirit and confidence.
Who is in charge?Donors, who provide the money and hold implementers to account.Local people: through elected local leaders whom they hold to account.
What are the main constraints?Bureaucracy: the inefficiency of the delivery system.Social conditions: resignation, discrimination (particularly gender), lack of local leadership, lack of rights.
What is the role of women?Vulnerable group who must be especially targeted beneficiaries.Key producers who must have a voice in decision-making.
What about social and cultural issues?Immutable conditions that must be compensated for.Conditions that people can transform.
How should we focus our work?Carefully target beneficiaries on an objective-needs basisMobilize everyone as broadly as possible, build spirit and momentum of accomplishment.
What is the role of central government?Operate centrally managed service-delivery programs.Decentralize resources and decision-making to local level; build local capacity; set standards; protect rights.
What is the role of local government?Implementing arm of central programs.Autonomous leadership directly accountable to people.
What is the role of
civil society?
Implementing arm of central programs.Catalyst to mobilize people; fight for their rights; empower people to keep government accountable.

Read more about The Hunger Project's methodology.