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Localizing Development: Identifying Barriers, Solutions, and Opportunities

When we began our exploration of localizing development we started with a hypothesis:

There are structural barriers that are limiting both donors and recipients from making real progress on localizing development funding. Identifying those barriers, and addressing them with practical solutions, has the potential to unlock significant growth.  

We began digging into this hypothesis and, based on a broad range of interviews and desk research, distilled our learning and ideas into a six-part series called Localizing Development.

Too Little Progress, Too Slowly

In our first article, we frame the scope of our investigation and explore the current state of affairs. This article considers how much funding is going directly to domestically registered organizations compared to donor commitments, setting the landscape for the assessment of the barriers to progress. We share why we believe localization is important, and why at GDI we’re particularly focused on funding going directly to domestically registered organizations.

Our Process to Select Language

Early in our exploration, we discovered that we need to be intentional both about the language we used, and how others understand that language. This brief primer shares GDI’s perspective on the unique meaning of ”localizing” versus “decolonizing”, walks through our process to select language, and explores how we will be using language throughout the series.

Why Haven’t We Made More Progress?

Confirming that donors were not meeting stated commitments, we move to consider why progress seems so difficult. Based on our research, we identify several recurring themes. This article breaks these obstacles down into demand-side barriers which restrict the ability of domestically registered organizations to receive funding, and supply-side barriers, which keep donors from meeting their localization goals.  

Proposed Demand Solutions to Overcome Barriers

Based on the barriers we identified, this article begins to explore specific and practical solutions. We start with solutions for challenges confronting domestically registered organizations, highlighting six ideas on how to address subscale operating infrastructures, and a smaller pool of technically specialized staff compared to the expansiveness of localization goals. We also use a market assessment of the NGO space in Kenya to give a practical context to what is required.

Proposed Supply Solutions to Overcome Barriers

We had the opportunity to consider pathways to address barriers donors face to localizing funding. We discuss solutions to address donor risk appetite, transaction size mismatch, and lack of visibility into domestic NGO organizations and ecosystems. Wrapping up the series, we consider where GDI will go from here, and have invited others to join us.

GDI’s Efforts to Localize Development 

GDI is working in new areas that we see as fundamental to addressing the most pressing global challenges, including climate, migration, inclusive societies, and localization. We continue to be guided by our core values: we stand on integrity; we follow our curiosity; we’re doers, not talkers; we embrace taking risks; and we see strength in diversity. In our Year in Review, we speak to our focus on localization, our growing portfolio of transformative efforts, and our goals for 2023.

Join the Conversation

Throughout this process, we learned from others and enjoyed hearing feedback and reflections on the ideas we presented. We encourage our colleagues to continue to participate in this dialogue and invite you to share your own experiences and ideas as we further refine our work together. Please reach out to us at

Join our mailing list for updates and follow this series for our latest thinking on GDI’s work in this area.