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Sustainability of Projects Designed to Empower Communities: Challenges and Solutions

All over the world, there are individuals and communities who are living in very difficult conditions. This has necessitated conducting projects which address these conditions.

Impoverishment, wars, natural disasters, vulnerable groups, among others call for such projects to be carried out. Various stakeholders including governments, non governmental organisations, corporations, etc step in in different capacities, and often collaborate to implement projects which address these issues, with the aim of uplifting communities.

The Challenge

The major challenge lies in running a project that does not leave long term impact, or in other words, is not sustainable.

The ultimate aim of such projects should be to provide communities with the necessary help needed, and the resources to sustain what has been started.

Here in Zambia, conversations with local NGOs revealed the fear around a mere donation based approach when it comes to helping communities. For instance, a once off campaign to donate items such as food and toys to children may be uplifting in the short run but creates an expectation of recurrence in the minds of the recipients and may eventually leave them disappointed. Thus, this model on its own may not be sustainable.

The Solution

Studies suggest that the solution to this issue lies in ensuring that from the very start, these projects have proper governance and structure.

Proper governance of these projects is influenced by and may be attained by the following factors:

• Project structures. Structures create order, synergy, and well defined roles.

• Project team effectiveness. This may be attained by outlining deliverables for each project member and implementing strategies to ensure these deliverables are met.

• Stakeholder’s involvement. As mentioned earlier, collaboration among various stakeholders is common. It ensures that different strengths are brought to the table, making a stronger project team.

• Knowledge areas of project management. All the above mentioned points are strengthened by a solid understanding of project management, which will provide the tools and knowledge to ensure the success of the project, and post project evaluation to analyse how sustainable the projects are.

Ultimately, projects should aim to achieve the triple bottom line:

• Economic;

• Environmental; and

• Social impact.

Attainment of all three, with a focus on sustainability will ultimately ensure that communities are uplifted not only today, but also in the days to come.

About BuPilo

BuPilo foundation aims to empower local communities through partnering with local leaders, individuals, and partners to build productive communities.

The aim of these projects is to assist families to achieve self-reliance by providing them with the necessary tools to sustain themselves and their families.


Haddock, S. (2023, April 3). More than a short-term escape: Sustainable empowerment solutions for girls and women in Zambia. World Bank Blogs.

Kaumbulu, A. K., Muathe, S. M. A., & James, R. (2020). Sustainability of Youth Empowerment Projects: The Role of Project Governance in Makueni County, Kenya. Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development.

Sustainable and Resilient Communities through Women Empowerment | United Nations Development Programme. (n.d.). UNDP.

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