Community-Driven Change

Helping communities create their own solutions

Community-driven change refers to the social process whereby communities actively participate in, often lead, and own the identification, design, and execution of solutions for the challenges they face. There is growing global recognition that community-driven change is more sustainable and inclusive, and an increasing number of NGOs and funders are embracing an approach that brings greater balance to the power and perspectives of communities in development processes.

The Community Engagement Spectrum

Bridgespan’s community engagement spectrum shows how nonprofits engage with communities—from being beneficiaries of programs to partners and, ultimately, owners of their own development. Our recent study on nonprofits that engage with communities as the owners of change highlights how these organizations think and act.

Community-driven change engagement spectrum diagram from recipient to partner to owner.

Origins of Our Work

Community-driven change builds on our work on peer-driven change—when constituents identify their own goals and lead their own change, instead of relying on funders, governments, and nonprofits to engage communities and incorporate their input into institutionally led strategies for improving people’s lives. In community-driven initiatives, funders and nonprofits can support peers’ efforts, but they don’t drive them. Similarly, in place-based philanthropy, donors support multisectoral efforts in geographies to create a lasting impact on constituent quality of life. 

Goals of the Initiative

Through this initiative, we aim to enable more sustainable and inclusive social development through greater understanding and, where relevant, the adoption of community-driven change models by NGOs and funders globally.

As a result of this exercise, we aspire to create the following shifts:

  1. An increase in relevant organizations embedding more community-driven practices in their work and theory of change models.
  2. A shift in funder mindsets towards community-driven, grassroots, and proximate organizations working with and in the communities they serve.
  3. Growing awareness and knowledge sharing on community-driven change globally, building on what already exists.

We also hope these initiatives will lead to an increase in the voice and representation of marginalized communities (e.g., by race, caste, gender, etc.) in their development processes.

Organizations from Which We Have Learned

List of clients including CORO, SHOFCO, and UBUNTU

Related Insights and Reports

We publish regularly on community-driven change both externally and on 

We would also like to thank our colleagues Gail Perreault and Rohit Menezes for their guidance and thoughtfulness on this work.