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Integrated Development—What Is It and Why Should We Care?

Last week, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel as a side event to the InterAction Forum to discuss integrated approaches to development. Practitioners from 3 prominent international development organizations—The Aga Khan Foundation USA, FHI 360, and Pact—who are thinking about and working on integrated approaches, shared what they’re learning from their work. These 3 organizations are also members of Locus, a new coalition which seeks to change the way development work is funded and implemented.

I launched the panel with some of my own observations on integrated development. Through my work with INGOs and donors over the last year, I’ve heard this term many times. But as a field, we’ve yet to develop a consistent definition of integrated development. Is this about working with multiple sectors, combining different issue areas, or coordinating several functions? How do we know if integrated approaches lead to better impact? And if this is a better approach, how do we ensure financial sustainability and good governance?

What exactly is integrated development? FHI 360’s Tricia Petruney defined integrated development as an “intentional approach for linking the design, delivery, and evaluation of programs across disciplines and sectors to produce an amplified impact.” For me, intentional is a critical word. So much of INGOs’ work happens reactively, not by design. Tricia also talked about the evidence FHI 360 is collecting on this approach.

How can integrated development programs be financially sustainable? This continues to be one of the biggest questions in the development field. One example is from Aga Khan Foundation’s work in Afghanistan. In partnership with USAID, they’re moving towards a sustainable, locally managed funding source by investing a portion of private donations into a “trust mechanism that is then meant to help sustain these activities after the life of the project concludes,” explained Elizabeth Grant. We should all be following this model to learn from it.

Does integrated development require a different kind of governance? Marc Cassidy of Pact discussed the need to more thoroughly understand context and how to achieve behavior change in a specific culture. Pact and others are using political economy analysis, which Marc described as a way of paying attention to the levers of power in a particular society, who the champions and detractors are, and how they can work together with global development organizations to sustain impact in the long term.

You can listen to the full conversation or read more about the panel on Pact’s blog

Adeeb Z. Mahmud

Managing Director