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:
- Mobilizing people at the grassroots level to build self-reliance
- Empowering women as key change agents; and
- Forging partnerships with local government.
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 Model||The 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 basis||Mobilize 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|
|Implementing arm of central programs.||Catalyst to mobilize people; fight for their rights; empower people to keep government accountable.|