IIRR’s work is centered on the principles espoused by its founder, Dr James Yen, who believed that “Communities have potential powers to solve their interlocking problems.”
Indeed, rural communities have accumulated local knowledge for generations – knowledge that can be built upon and optimized. IIRR’s role is to provide opportunities and create an environment that allows communities to take control and be actively engaged. This often involves building their capacities through “learning by doing”, helping them to reflect on their experiences and to choose the best course of action. The best course of action is often a mix of “technical know-how” from the resources of outsiders and the “practical do-how” of local communities. Taken together, these processes lead to a state of empowerment where local communities take the driver’s seat and decide on necessary actions.
Empowering does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort to understand the issues, culture, and capacities. It means creating platforms where people can share ideas and work together for a common vision. It means “leading from behind” so that communities develop ownership of their own development. Over the years IIRR has tested community-managed approaches in rural development, health and nutrition, food security, livelihoods, and disaster risk reduction within its learning communities. These approaches uphold people-centered principles that can help deliver outcomes at the local level where they are most needed.