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Working towards Transformational Development and the Sustainable Development Goals

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The report explores the benefits and challenges of using such an approach by analysing five projects of four Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) who want to support transformational development. The case studies are:

  • Action Aid Australia: strengthening smallholder farmers’ resilience in arid and semi-arid eastern Kenya
  • Anglican Board of Mission Australia: promoting women’s equality in PNG as part of the living Gospel
  • Caritas Australia: improving sexually transmitted infection management in PNG
  • Oxfam Australia: promoting the free, prior and informed consent of project-affected communities
  • Oxfam Australia: supporting coalitions to improve climate change adaptation in Vanuatu.

Finally, the report considers the implications of these insights on transformation from theory and practice for the work of development agencies, specifically for international NGOs and their donors. The report suggests that agencies can test their programs and organisations for “indications of transformation”, even if they cannot show conclusively that they are contributing to transformational development, especially in the short-term. Agencies can engage better with political, uncertain forces and experiment with institutional and social learning and innovation. Such strategies can support work to fulfil the transformational potential of the 2030 Agenda: its acknowledgement that universal challenges are shared problems; its commitment to leaving no one behind; and its recognition of the indivisibility of economic, social and environmental concerns in transformation. 

Funding for this research was provided by La Trobe University’s Disciplinary Research Program, Oxfam Australia, ActionAid Australia and Caritas Australia in 2015.