Integration is the future, and we must get there together

April 1, 2015
Members of Pact's WORTH program, in Myanmar

Integrated development is among the biggest buzzwords in international development today. NGOs use it. Government funders and foundations use it. Industry media use it.

Pact uses it, too, when we talk about the integrated approach we employ.

But it’s so much more than a buzzword. At Pact, our integrated approach is at the heart of nearly everything we do. It means we approach our work based on how people live. We focus on systemic improvements and design our development programs to work together, making them more effective.

If you help a community gain access to health services but people there have no options for earning a dignified living, there is still work to be done. If you’ve given women the skills they need to start small businesses but no market exists for their products, or their government is so unstable that those businesses can’t succeed, what have you really achieved?

Our belief is that when interventions complement one another – when we tackle poverty on multiple fronts at the same time in a given country – the result will equal more than the sum of the parts. To make the biggest impact, development and aid organizations must stop pursuing their efforts in silos, project by project. We have to think bigger.

Embracing integrated development in our own work isn’t enough. We want to see other organizations embrace it, too, including funding agencies. We’re working on a number of fronts to expand support for integrated development.

With Africa Capacity Alliance, Aga Khan Foundation USA, FHI 360, IRC and SNV USA, we created Locus, a landmark initiative dedicated to finding new answers to old development challenges by focusing on local solutions and an integrated approach.

We wholeheartedly support efforts by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network to make U.S. aid go further and achieve more.

Late last month, Pact’s Myanmar staff hosted a daylong conference in Yangon entitled, Integrated Development: The Way Forward for Myanmar? More than 100 stakeholders attended, including development leaders and professionals from communities, civil society, the private sector and funding agencies.

Topics discussed included the lack of research supporting an integrated approach, engagement with national governments and connection with national policies, coordination between international and local NGOs, community-centered decision making, the role of integrated development in conflict areas and problems with short-term donor investment. It was a lively, invigorating day.

These are discussions that will continue at Pact, and we hope they will elsewhere, too. Integrated development is more than a buzzword. It's the future, and we have to get there together.