Achieving impact at scale

One response to a big challenge is a big solution. IIED has a track record of developing and testing practical approaches that can deliver sustainable change at scale: initiatives that can reach from a single community to many, crossing national and regional borders.

Our action research takes valuable local solutions to global forums, achieving impact at many levels. We combine evidence and voices from the grassroots to help policymakers make the right decisions for people and the plant.

Over the next five years we will build on our experience of delivering positive change, working closely with local partners in government, civil society and the private sector. We will apply this thinking to existing areas of work and to new domains where innovation at scale is needed.

The following examples illustrate how we make change happen – from the grassroots to policy level:

Putting communities in control of climate finance

A locally-led approach for channelling finance to the frontline of climate change has grown from a pilot in one Kenyan county to cover a third of the nation, with similar mechanisms now being tested in three more African countries.

Field trip participants learning about a project to build community capability to adapt to growing water scarcity in Ethiopia's Blue Nile basin

Field trip participants learn about a project to build community capability to adapt to growing water scarcity in Ethiopia's Blue Nile basin (Photo: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Too often climate funding never reaches local level, or is spent without consulting community experience. When IIED brought national and local government actors together with local partners in Isiolo County, Kenya, we began by asking local communities for their assessment of the political and practical context. The insights we gained informed the technical support we provided; they also highlighted the need for our approach to fit with existing governance systems.

Together, we established the County Climate Change Fund (CCCF): a mechanism that funnels climate adaptation funding to county governments, and from there to communities. We prepared these local communities by building their capability to plan for – and effectively budget – adaptation funds (with checks and balances to manage risk).

Empowering local people to make meaningful investment decisions has transformed the state/citizen relationship. Increased resilience in Isiolo has led to the approach being rolled out across a third of the country – home to 3.3 million women, men and children.

And the impact is growing: Kenya’s National Climate Change Action Plan prioritises taking CCCF nationwide. The success of the CCCF model has led to similar mechanisms being tested in Mali, Senegal and Tanzania, and Uganda has also expressed interest in piloting this approach.

With this experience, our Money Where it Matters programme will continue to develop new ways of mobilising development and climate finance for those most in need.

Strength in numbers: organising to thrive

A unique partnership is empowering collective action to achieve far-reaching effects. We are helping producers break into markets and influence policy decisions that will secure resilience for their livelihoods, societies and entire landscapes.

Market day in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.

Market day in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. The Forest and Farm Facility is supporting producers in Guatemala to develop their businesses and gain better access to markets (Photo: Erik Törner, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) recognises that those who live off the land – ‘forest and farm producers’ – are vital custodians of our natural resources. Strengthening them at scale improves everyone’s environmental future.

FFF supports producer organisations in ten countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, offering direct financing, training, peer-to-peer learning and more. It has become a leading mechanism for delivering climate and development funds to the local level.

Over five years, FFF has channelled finance to more than 900 producer organisations, representing 30 million people. Mass mobilisation has grown 262 sustainable business clusters and convinced decision makers from the local to national level to deliver 51 documented policy improvements. These are concrete victories on land tenure, forest rights, financial incentives, tax and credit arrangements, technical assistance and even new roads.

IIED leads on knowledge generation, monitoring and learning; we help co-create, document and share the ways in which producer organisations are changing the big picture. With our project partners FAO, IUCN and Agricord, we launched an ambitious second phase in 2018.

High stakes in the high seas

From livelihood protection programmes for coastal fishers in Asia and Africa, to influencing supranational discussions on the effects of ocean governance on low-income nations: our deep understanding of the issues is informing global decision making.

Fishing boats in Viet Nam

Fishing boats bring home their catch to waiting customers in Vietnam. What happens on the high seas impacts coastal fishers and their communities (Photo: Siim Teller, Creative Commons via Flickr)

IIED’s inclusive blue economy work began by harnessing market instruments to protect the livelihoods of coastal fishers, seeking ways to sustainably manage the natural resources on which they depend. Now our focus and impact has grown to addressing the ocean governance gap, which currently leaves 50% of the planet's surface vulnerable to unmanaged, unsustainable and unequal exploitation.

Building on our experience of supporting the Least Developed Countries Group in global climate talks, we are helping to prepare negotiators from these and other nations to influence a new UN treaty that will seek to protect ocean biodiversity beyond national waters.

Our early work has enabled us to highlight connections between the high seas and national coastlines: the health of the former profoundly influences the lives of millions of artisanal fishers in low-income countries. Building our knowledge and networks – from poor coastal fishing communities to scientists and global policy makers – will continue to be a major focus over the next five years as we seek to ensure the ‘blue economy’ is well managed and offers a fair share of its benefits to the poorest nations and communities.

Influencing the urban transition, everywhere

As urban areas in low- and middle-income countries continue to expand, our contribution to cities that work for people and planet delivers much-needed impact at scale. By inspiring generations of researchers and practitioners, and by focusing policymakers on the realities of life in low-income and informal settlements, we drive change all over the world.

Riverside settlement in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Residents in this riverside settlement in Surabaya, Indonesia, took action to move their homes back from the waterfront to improve waterflow (Photo: E&U April 2019)

Decades of locally-informed and action-oriented research in urban spaces has afforded IIED a profound understanding of how cities grow and change, whether because of migration, forced displacement, climate change, or due to campaigning by low-income communities.

One indicator of how widely we are bringing evidence from the most marginalised residents to the heart of research and policy is the reach of our journal, Environment & Urbanization (E&U). With more than 360,000 full text downloads in 2018, the global E&U network includes hundreds of contributors and millions of readers.

Evidence leads to action: via the journal and through collaboration with our unparalleled network of local partners, we promote inclusive, low-carbon and climate-resilient solutions to the biggest challenges facing towns and cities today.

Local action leads to global influence: we support partners to elevate the needs of urban populations within key international agendas. IIED is a respected voice on urban issues and within low-income and informal communities, and we advocate for policies and programmes that help shape urban futures which are just, sustainable and safe.