Lessons in Transition Programming


OTI Cote d'Ivoire
An election officer waits for voters at a polling station on April 21, 2013 in the Abobo suburb of Abidjan.

OTI’s 20 years of experience implementing more than 25,000 activities in nearly 60 engagements has generated invaluable lessons learned. The U.S. response to crisis and conflict will be more effective by understanding and incorporating the following principles in support of democratic political transitions.

  • Coordination within USAID and with other U.S. Government agencies is necessary to success.
  • In political transitions and conflict environments, a rapid response is critical to building citizens’ confidence in their local and national government.
  • A country’s own political will for transition is key.  OTI interventions cannot create it or substitute for its absence.
  • Working in dynamic political environments requires equally dynamic and adaptive performance management processes.
  • In countries prone to political violence, programs must be tailored to local realities and target strategic regions, often outside capital cities, in communities where the central government has less control.
  • Do not commit rigidly to a single strategic course. Constantly re-visit initial assumptions, re-evaluate program objectives, and re-target when necessary.
  • Seek expansive, non-traditional local partnerships including spontaneous groups of active citizens that can often be energetic and effective in bringing about positive change.
  • Seize windows of opportunity to support local actors to advance peace and democracy, but recognize that creative initiatives are made more effective through sustained effort and support.
  • Empower field personnel to make on-the-spot program decisions, which enable quick, responsive, and relevant interventions at the local or regional level.
  • Funding flexibility and staff deployment readiness are essential for quick program start-ups.
  • Support for enlightened leadership must be complemented by grassroots efforts to build stakeholders among the general population.
  • The process is as important as the product.  Every activity is an opportunity to put democratic principles into practice and achieve positive change in public perceptions about a country’s political transition.
  • Assume an entrepreneurial approach where appropriate by starting small, taking calculated risks, and growing good ideas. Building synergy across activities and regions can produce catalytic results.


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