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This summer, a new generation of students and practitioners is learning how to design international development projects rooted in local solutions. Development program sponsors and implementers are increasingly recognizing that local solutions are a vital ingredient in any sustainable development strategy according to Professor Beryl Levinger, chair of the Development Practice and Policy program at the Middlebury Institute and founding director of its Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation program.

Through a partnership between the Institute and Locus, a landmark initiative dedicated to finding new solutions to old development challenges by focusing on local solutions and integrated programming, 19 students and current development professionals are gathered in Nairobi, Kenya to gain hands-on experience through the DPMI program.

This is a landmark year for international development. The Millennium Development Goals are coming to a close and a new chapter is unfolding with the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals. With these big changes come discussions on what has and has not worked, the path forward, and how to finance this path.

“Across the international development field, one thing that is rising to the top of the discussion is local solutions,” says Graham Wood, senior vice president of Pact. “No longer are people satisfied with the historical nature of development in which someone in Washington D.C. or Geneva determines solutions to challenges faced by communities in Myanmar, Ethiopia, or Guatemala.”

Wood and Levinger agree that in order to achieve true, transformational change, local knowledge and expertise must be harnessed. Wood shares that this is a core objective of Locus, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, foundations and consulting firms that promotes integrated solutions to address the underlying causes of poverty. The Locus agenda also includes adoption of a shared measurement system that helps participating organizations readily identify effective initiatives as well as those that require further refinement.

Monterey’s DPMI certificate program offers participants the tools and skills they need to forge effective, local networks, alliances and partnerships. This orientation makes Monterey and Locus natural partners. DPMI participants will learn how to map local systems; translate findings into compelling project designs; and promote organizational learning for continuous improvement. Participants, who come from the U.S., Africa, and Latin America, will learn from one another as they search out innovative solutions to persistent problems.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir