CLA is an approach to development which is led by citizens themselves. It differs from participatory planning, monitoring and evaluation which makes space for people to participate in a process which is essentially facilitated externally and feeds into a pre-determined programme or project evaluation framework. CLA, on the other hand, is driven primarily by the needs of citizens themselves. People define their own needs, describe their own desired futures, seek help in making change happen and identify and measure the success of this process of change themselves. The CLA is an approach which permeates the entire development project or programme cycle and ensures that information is generated by citizens themselves and used by citizens themselves. Any other use of information generated is subordinate to this fundamental principle.
As CLA is not so much focused on problems but rather on the change that people want to see, it provides opportunities for people to navigate different routes to achieve improvements in their lives. The onus of defining and tracking change is people’s own and is based on the principle that if the monitoring and tracking of change is intrinsically useful to people themselves they will give it their time and energy so that the process is likely to be sustainable and ultimately independent of the project.
CLA has been used by Empatika in Bangladesh, Malawi and is currently being rolled out in India. For more information on how this approach has worked in the different contexts, please see the following articles from our experiences in Bangladesh and Malawi, along with an ongoing series of blog posts about the current process in India.