A People-First Approach to Locally Led, Globally Informed Development


For decades, the international development community has grappled with how to enable local ownership for development, which is essential to foster sustainable, systemic change. We are a community that has come together because we believe that achieving locally led development will require developing ourselves–building consciousness of our own biases and privilege and how these have informed our ideas about where leadership needs to come from–and growing and improving initiatives that cultivate the agency and leadership of people in developing contexts. 

The approach we are suggesting would enable a fundamental shift in international development–from a focus on identifying proven interventions and scaling them across developing contexts in pursuit of measurable outcomes at significant scale, towards one that invests in the people in developing contexts and supports them to achieve meaningful outcomes over time.

Download our working paper

Who we are

We are a community of practitioners, academics, and public and private sector actors who believe in the people in developing contexts to drive their own progress, and have seen through our own experiences that investing in them must be our first focus as a development community. We are committed to living into the principles of a “people-first” approach to development in our own work and to advocating for the broader transformation of international development towards this approach.

What We’re Reading


Four radical shifts towards decolonising aid

Two 5am starts followed by 16 hours of screen time. Yet by the end of the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference, ‘energised’ was the word I used to sum up my…

Localisation and local humanitarian action

The theme of this edition of Humanitarian Exchange is localisation and local humanitarian action. Five years ago this week, donors, United Nations (UN) agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the International Committee…

What might you do?

We invite you to join the conversation! Please share your ideas, give feedback on our evolving effort, and contribute to our expanded understanding and adoption of a “people-first” approach to development. For more information please contact people@peoplefirstdev.org