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Assessment of USAID Civil Society Program in the Dominican Republic

Latin America and the Caribbean USAID 2001 2002

DevTech led a team of evaluation and civil society specialists with extensive knowledge of the Dominican Republic to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the impact of USAID’s Strengthening Civil Society Project, which included the Democratic Initiative Project (PID), providing substantial resources to Participación Ciudadana (PC), and supporting Rule of Law activities related to civil society through Fundación Institucionalidad y Justicia (FINJUS).The objectives of the assessment were to provide a rigorous review of the impact of USAID’s investment in civil society; share input to help the Mission shape its next five-year strategy (2002—2007); and draw key lessons learned and best practices from USAID/DR’s activities to promote the development of a politically active civil society in support of democracy.As part of this assessment, the team:Interviewed 187 key individuals in local and national government using semi-structured protocols;Conducted 22 focus groups throughout the country with PID sub-grantees and PC electoral observers;Conducted a nationwide survey of PID beneficiaries and PC electoral observers on values and practices of individuals and community groups related to democracy and civil society. The data from the nation-wide survey was then cross-analyzed to draw conclusions about the impact of program activities.The Assessment team concluded that there were several key factors critical to the success of implementing a program to strengthen civil society in the Dominican Republic. These were:Civil Society Programs require a long-term strategy. USAID/DR’s foresight to support the initiative over a 10-year period was critical. It provided the necessary time to build the projects carefully, let them take hold, and eventually reach out to a broad and receptive public. Changing political culture needs at least a decade.One step behind approach is critical. An essential part of the strategy to promote democracy in the DR was to maintain a low profile, allowing the Dominican grantees to take the visible lead in pushing for democratic reforms. This one step behind strategy conferred legitimacy and credibility to the effort as a Dominican initiative and was key to its success.Flexibility. Given the fluidity of the political situation in the DR, it was essential for the USAID Mission to support a "demand" rather than a "supply" driven initiative. This approach helped to build momentum and contributed to the sustainability of the initiative