Sustainability is one of Tearfund’s Quality standards

“we are committed to empowering staff and partners and to seeing that the work that we support has a lasting impact, being built on local ownership and using local skills and resources.”

The concepts of sustainability, local ownership and participation are central to good development, in wishing to see positive, lasting change that is not dependent on outside help. Whilst it is clear that in development work, plans that are based on a community’s own resources and capacities will be more sustainable, emergency situations often require a high level of outside help, meeting basic needs of the disaster-affected people which they are no longer in a position to meet themselves.

In our emergency projects we need to ask ourselves how that outside help should best be organised – how can it respond to demand and still be built on local ownership, what is it that we want to leave behind at the end of the project and to what extent will the project benefits be continued long after the project has ended?

If the principle of sustainability is not fully considered in a project, we can end up with very poorly designed projects, with project benefits ending as soon as the project finishes, resources wasted and communities disappointed or frustrated and dependency created.

This module on sustainability considers how varying emergency contexts can treat the concept of sustainability and what approaches might be appropriate and realistic in each situation.  The key questions that are covered are:

  • What do we mean by sustainability?

  • What does a sustainable project look like?

  • What practical steps can we take to make our projects more sustainable?

  • How do we avoid creating dependency in emergency relief programmes?

  • What is an exit strategy and how do we go about writing one?

Tearfunds’ Quality Standards Field Guide has some useful notes on practical steps for implementation of the Quality Standard.