Local Leadership Labs

About the Local Leadership Labs (LLL)


The Local Leadership Labs (LLL) is a new initiative aimed at tackling some of the barriers (political, technical, behavioural) preventing governments, donors and other stakeholders from adopting and delivering on commitments that recognize, enable and resource diverse local civil society groups as key development actors in their own right. The initiative will support radically inclusive spaces where local civil society groups can drive, alongside other key actors and decision-makers, the development of context-appropriate policies and solutions. Moreover, the initiative will seed trans-local spaces for cross-pollination, reflection and strategizing among disparate likeminded efforts and multi-stakeholder initiatives that could help accelerate systemic changes towards Locally-Led Development.  

The key drivers of the initial LLL pilot phase will be six convening partners from local civil society based and operating in Southeast Asia and Southeast Africa. Priority will be given to convening partners that are able to reach out to and meaningfully engage representatives of groups and movements who are dually affected by civic space restrictions and structural discrimination (e.g., indigenous and traditional peoples, youth, women, LGBTIQ+, rural communities, people with disabilities).   

Each of the Local Leadership Labs conveners will facilitate sustained safe dialogue processes as well as inclusive co-creation spaces so that policies, practices, and enablement approaches of different stakeholders will be more joined up and responsive to the lived experiences, priorities and asks of diverse local civil society actors. Besides enhancing reciprocal accountability, in the end, this process would positively impact the relevance and accessibility of resources, support infrastructure and solidarity available to local civil society actors. 

The catalysts and connectors in the initiative are CIVICUS and Network for Empowered Aid Response (NEAR), global civil society networks working to improve the support ecosystem for local civil society actors. They will be responsible for identifying and providing financial support and non-financial accompaniment to their local partners, brokering connections and direct engagement opportunities with other stakeholders, coordinating with likeminded processes and initiatives, facilitating learning across the labs and with others in the support ecosystem, and – where appropriate – amplifying the analysis, asks and solutions to a global audience.


The Local Leadership Labs Initiative will be implemented in three stages, as outlined below, while learning and influencing activities will take place throughout the project period.

  1. Discovery: During this phase, each convening partner will (a) identify, engage and accompany representatives from diverse local civil society groups to articulate collective analyses and key asks for jointly identified stakeholders and key interlocutors; (b) coordinate with other like-minded actors to catalyse a trans-local movement aimed at influencing narratives, policy and commitments in support to local civil society. This will contribute to solidarity and collective action amongst civil society and thus the formation of a stronger and more inclusive movement for locally-led development.  

  1. Ideation: During this phase, each convening partner will lead the curation of experimental spaces (nationally or sub-nationally depending on their agreed scope of work) bringing together the civil society actors and the target stakeholders identified during the Discovery stage (for example governments, private sector, donors, media, academia, etc.) with the view to (a) engage in transformative dialogues to build mutual trust & understanding, (b) find convergence around narratives, policy and priorities and (c) actively participate in Labs to co-create solutions to the political, technical and behavioural challenges & priorities identified in the previous stages.   

  1. Action: During the third stage, the multi-stakeholder groups will identify action plans and roles/responsibilities to start operationalising the co-created solutions. 

The Local Leadership Labs will facilitate sustained dialogue, co-creation and collective advocacy. As a result, emerging policies, practices and approaches will be informed by and more responsive to the lived experiences and development agendas of diverse local civil society actors. We aim for these results to enhance reciprocal accountability and accelerate the process of increasing the scope and relevance of the resources, support infrastructure and solidarity available to diverse local civil society actors.

Our Theory of Change

Our vision is of strengthened civil society and civic action that drives locally led development processes, advances expanded civic and democratic space, human rights and a more just, equitable and sustainable world. We expect that the Local Leadership Labs initiative will contribute directly to this vision.

The Theory of Change underpinning the Local Leadership Labs is based on the principle that the initiative is locally-owned and locally-led, and focuses on solutions that are context specific, building on what we know about practicing constituency accountability, creating safe and inclusive dialogue spaces, and facilitating locally-led and co-created processes.

More specifically, we will ensure that the design and implementation of the Local Leadership Labs reflect our common values:

  • Locally driven – diverse local civil society actors in the Global South will be the key drivers of the initiative in the ways they will deem more appropriate to their contexts; NEAR and CIVICUS will stand accountable to them and play a catalyst and connector role.
  • Power-building – the work will be informed by a power-building lens (redistributing power, building collective power, organizing power holders and transforming power structures) centering the political power of diverse local civil society groups and activists representing traditionally excluded communities.
  • Radically inclusive – challenging basic assumptions; prioritizing co-created approaches that unleash collective leadership and shared ownership; and ensuring that no policy or solution will be decided without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) directly affected by that policy or solution.
  • Systems thinking – recognizing that systems change requires new mindsets, cultures, tools, processes and organizing approaches, this initiative will catalyze collaborative leadership and shared ownership across sectors at various levels to unleash the potential for transformative change through relational and experimental trust-building, co-designed solutions and peer learning.
  • Cultivating accountability – the initiative will accelerate existing processes or commitments through intentional coordination and complementarity and by creating conditions for mutual accountability between decision makers and local civil society groups.
  • Reflective – a collective learning mindset will be cultivated to help acknowledge our own biases and silos, stimulate innovation, ongoing adaptation, evidence-based change and to foster periodic reflection to support deep (transformative) learning.

Read our Theory of Change narrative here.

Sounding Board

The Sounding Board serves as an advisory body for the inception phase of Local Leadership Labs (LLL). It will help identify the process and criteria for selecting LLL convening partners, providing validation and refinement of the LLL’s framework and local conveners’ remit, and participating in the selection process of convening partners. The anticipated engagement of the Sounding Board will be more significant in the inception phase, transitioning to periodic involvement in the subsequent stages of the initiative while serving as a critical friend by providing 1) honest, thoughtful, and constructive feedback on LLL periodic learnings and reflections and 2) challenging assumptions, asking probing questions and encouraging deeper exploration on the learning components of the LLL.


Danny D. Gotto

Danny Gotto is a seasoned public health physician and visionary social justice advocate with a remarkable track record of over two decades dedicated to advancing Equity and Social Justice throughout Eastern Africa. His extensive journey encompasses a diverse spectrum of roles, ranging from Medical Practitioner to Public Health specialist, and spans across public, private, and nonprofit healthcare sectors.

His impactful footprint extends to leadership positions within both development and humanitarian spheres, where he has spearheaded transformative programs addressing crucial domains such as HIV/AIDS response, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, Nutrition & Food Systems, and Maternal Newborn & Child Health. Danny's expertise and passion for catalyzing positive change have greatly benefited organizations like Save the Children, MSH, CRS, and FHI360.

As the driving force behind Innovations for Development (I4D), a nonprofit organization he founded, Danny channels his energy towards reshaping the landscape of Social Justice, Health Equity, and Participatory Democracy. At I4D, Danny currently leads a dynamic team focused on championing innovations that build resilient and accountable health systems, localize development initiatives, and strengthen community agency and participation.

With a Medical degree from Mbarara University, Uganda, a Masters in Public Health from Makerere University Kampala, and an Masters in Business Administration from Universite Catollica Del Sacro Cuore Milan, Danny embodies the fusion of medical expertise, social entrepreneurship, and innovative leadership. His unwavering commitment to improving the lives of individuals and communities across Eastern Africa is a testament to his vision and dedication in the pursuit of a more equitable and just society.

Inez Hackenberg (Netherlands)
Inez Hackenberg, born in the Netherlands, lived much of her working life in Africa. She brings 35 years of experience in humanitarian and social change work. She loves facilitating inclusive and highly participatory learning processes, integrating creative expression, contact with nature and body movement (and dance) where possible. Although her dream to become a prima ballerina never quite materialised, dance is life for Inez.  

Connecting people in open and brave spaces, and the wellbeing of women take a central place in all she does. She is engaged in a community promoting social reflective practices, acknowledging the importance of time, observation, humility, and connecting to what is present and emerging in a situation or an organisation. She believes in the importance of challenging the dominant paradigms of development aid. 

Since 2016, Inez has been leading the Linking and Learning team of the Voice programme operated by Oxfam Novib and Hivos. This process brings diverse people and organisations together to share experiences, reflect on their reality and learn with and from each other. This has been a huge learning curve for all, co-creating inclusive and respectful spaces where everyone feels encouraged to shed their inhibitions, and share lived experiences, successes, and challenges.  

Inez loves creative chaos, dancing and fun.

Safia Khan
(South Africa)

Safia Khan is an Innovation and Quality Management Officer at CIVICUS.  She works to gather and share the myriad of ways that innovation and multi-sectoral input may be harnessed to bring about sustainable change towards a more equitable world. She cares deeply for social justice and works to support communities, affected by civic space restrictions, be at the forefront of efforts to defend against these.

Chilande Kuloba-Warria (Kenya)

Chilande has over 20 years hands-on experience enhancing effectiveness and resilience of local, national and international CSOs working in Sub-Saharan Africa, across a range of development and humanitarian sectors. She currently serves as a founder and Director of a technical support facility called the Warande Advisory Centre based in Kenya; At the centre, she leads a team that is contributing to strengthening institution's dynamic accountability practices, and guiding local leaders in improving their governance systems, building their leadership pipelines, and developing effective systems that increase their performance and financial sustainability. In recent years, Chilande has channeled this cumulative experience towards catalyzing system changes that get the sector closer towards just and equitable multistakeholder relationships; and solidarity in these sector with a drive to restore the sovereignty and prosperity of global south communities.

Jyotsna Mohan Singh (India)

Jyotsna holds a Ph.D Degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has more than 20 years of experience in the development sector and academics. She is been working as a Regional Coordinator – Asia, for a regional CSO platform called Asia Development Alliance, past 8 years. She has research expertise on socio-economic and environmental issues, especially on linking development, democracy and human right, development finance, Health, environment and Climate Governance and Voluntary National Review for Asia-Pacific, apart from Institutional development, Training and Capacity building on the above mentioned issues. She has written widely on voluntary national review analysis for the AP region, especially the fact sheet for the APRCEM, past 7 years apart from the role of international financial institutions, Climate justice, in the context to policy coherence for sustainable Development (PCSD) governance and accountability with a focus on SDG 16 Plus.

Hafsah Muheed
(Sri Lanka)

Hafsah Muheed is an intersectional feminist, human rights advocate & a sustainability practitioner with over 7 years of grassroots experience working in the nexus of gender, peacebuilding, climate change, disability, health and wellbeing, governance, and labour rights in over 11 business units & communities.  She specializes in cross sectoral solutions. She is a core member of Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka, focusing on sexual and reproductive health rights, member of the 30 for 2030 network by UN Women APAC, Member Advisory Group,  Vice Chair < 30 Governance & Ethics Committee & Secretary Adolescent Youth Constituency of PMNCH hosted by the WHO focused on maternal, newborn, and adolescent health & wellbeing, Curator - Global Shapers Hub Colombo, Former Board Member of Sri Lanka Unites a youth movement focused on peacebuilding and reconciliation, A Women Deliver Young Leader, Wedu Global Rising Star, Member of the Climate Champion Actions Network, Advisor – Decolonizing Aid at Bond UK, Visiting Lecturer. She is also the Founder of Amplifying Impact, an informal initiative focusing on enabling accessibility on marginalized communities.

Hafsah’s expertise lies in grassroot advocacy, participatory grant management, organizational strategy and development, movement engagement and advocacy. She uses writing & poetry as a medium to raise awareness among stakeholders beyond civil society. Her experience in working with private sector, youth led organizations and civil society over the years has resulted in driving cross-sectoral solutions and collaborative partnerships.

Felicity Sibindi (Netherlands, Zimbabwean-Born)

Felicity Sibindi is a public health practitioner, African feminist and women’s and climate rights activist who has worked across Africa in primary health care service-provision and feminist advocacy to amplify the voices of women and vulnerable groups and communities from sex workers in South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe, to LGBTQ+ communities in Nigeria, and women’s rights groups in the DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Her work focuses on the intersection of issues affecting women and vulnerable communities from economic resilience and fighting exploitative and extractive industries, to health care, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and challenging systems of power which put women’s lives at risk. Felicity leverages on newly accessible models of media and digital technology to bring innovation to more traditional forms of grassroots advocacy. She believes in the power of authentic African voices to raise awareness around sexual and reproductive health and rights issues locally, regionally and at the international policy-level; and seeks future-facing, practical and sustainable solutions for building strong resilient communities. Felicity has confidence that indigenous African communities are the future and that they will determine for themselves the direction that the world will move beyond this current global polycrisis.

Anonymous (Asia)

Denis Matheka

Denis is a social scientist adept in national, regional, and global policy, advocacy, and diplomacy work, with over 14 years of experience, combining managerial and technical leadership in both development and humanitarian contexts. He possesses both lived and professional experiences in shifting more power to local and national actors through localisation, and decolonization initiatives. He is a skilled diplomat and negotiator with a deep appreciation of the intersection between power, ideologies, and systems. Having worked and engaged with local actors, INGOs, and UN Agencies, Denis has witnessed how power can be leveraged for the common good in both humanitarian and development sectors. His experience spans across a wide spectrum of action, from the grassroots level in the field directly with local actors, to policymaking, high-level political engagement, and intergovernmental processes.

LLL Convening Partners

The LLL Convening Partners are local civil society groups, who operate at different levels in the ecosystem - sub-nationally, nationally and regionally - and convene inclusive, context-appropriate spaces for local civil society groups to engage with governments, donors and other key allies and enablers. In addition, convening partners will facilitate constituency building and demand articulation, multi-stakeholder engagement and relationship building, co-creation through solution labs and collective reflection, learning and sharing.



The vision of CAPAIDS Uganda is work with grass root community-based organizations to enable communities Resist, Survive & Overcome Socio-economic inequities. In this regard CAPAIDS Uganda serves as a secretariat of the Local Coalition accelerator and Charter for change working group Uganda; works together to pilot and test coordinated, layered approaches to service delivery, develop a holistic systems-change strategy that will enable the coalition to create a new paradigm for sustainable, locally designed and locally led development, and position the group for sustainable bilateral financing.

Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (IKa)


Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (IKa) – Indonesia for Humanity, is a 29-years-old grant-making organization set up by Indonesian activists advocating social justice and human rights. It spans a network from Aceh to Papua, united by a vision of social justice and human rights. The organization supports civil society groups through grants, capacity building, networking, and knowledge sharing. IKa focuses on empowering voices of marginalized communities, engaging with policymakers, improving the sustainability of collective initiatives. Over 29 years, IKa has distributed over 800 small grants to local leaders and marginalized groups. IKa's role as a multistakeholder convenor is pivotal, facilitating dialogue and collaboration among diverse groups to address critical social issues.



We are a movement building organization.
We love women and believe in their advancement in the economic, social and political sphere.
We exist to create pathways for women who aspire to meaningfully contribute to the greater women’s movement in Uganda.
We support women to reach their fullest potential.
We create safe environments for expression, self-care, participation and growth of leadership skills.
We are aware of ourselves as part of a larger whole.
We are relational and inspirational with an orientation towards transformation.
We are aware and attentive to power dynamics and their varied meanings in context to culture and identities.

TREND ASIA Indonesia


Trend Asia is an independent civil society organization that acts as an accelerator of energy transformation and sustainable development in Asia, focusing in Indonesia. Trend Asia's mission is to reinforce, enrich, amplify, intensify, cultivate, and co-lead the eco socionomics movement in Asia, while focusing on energy and urban issues as well as solutions work.

As of now, Trend Asia are focussing itself to accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels especially coal; phasing in democratic and just renewable energy; while resisting false energy transition solutions such as wood-based biomass that threaten forest and land use change; as well as unjust and destructive transition's minerals mining and processing; and pushing for a just and equitable energy transformation in Indonesia.

LLL Blog

Welcome to the LLL blog! In this space, we will share reflections, learnings and updates.

By Clara Bosco, Anita Kattakuzhy and Gunjan Veda

Over the last couple of years, we have seen an unprecedented number of commitments by funders and philanthropists to support locally-led development, increase direct funding to local actors and promote a more enabling environment for civil society.  

It has been six months since the Grand Bargain 3.0 commitments, one year since the adoption of the Donor Statement on Locally-Led Development, two years since United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator’s announced localisation targets RGB(14, 27, 100) (OECD DAC) Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society. Now seems an opportune time to reflect on how these commitments are being translated into action. We believe the following elements are key to inform such an assessment and need to be prioritised moving forward...

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In November 2023, Majority World actors and community-based organizations published a letter to international partners outlining five principles to make convenings on locally-led development more inclusive. The letter calls for organizers and sponsors of convenings on locally-led development to:

  1. Ensure that diverse local actors are not only equally represented at any policy or decision-making table that impacts Majority World countries and its inhabitants, but also co-shape these tables.

  2. Enable meaningful access, for instance choosing locations that minimize humiliating visa processes or prohibitive travel logistics;

  3. Respect participants’ time, experience and expertise – providing adequate notice to make travel plans and, where needed, providing full sponsorship so that everyone, not only the well-resourced groups, can actively participate.

  4. Speak languages that can be understood – ensuring real language access beyond simultaneous interpretation or sign language

  5. Set the agenda together and work with co-hosts from the Majority World. 

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Without including local organizations, any talk on localization will be "old wine in a new bottle," says Gunjan Veda, the U.S. executive director of the Movement for Community-led Development.

Four months after a letter circulated across the world, more than 1,800 local organizations, networks, and grassroots leaders have demanded a change. 

For weeks, Doris Fatima Webber tried to think up ways to make a 5,000 mile journey — one that would take her from Sierra Leone to Denmark for a conference.

The event was focused on supporting local organizations working on development, humanitarian response, and peace. And Webber, as the executive director of a local nonprofit in rural Sierra Leone, had a lot she wanted to share. But there was one caveat: She couldn’t get a visa...

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By Taís Siqueira, Local Leadership Labs Coordinator at CIVICUS

This quote represents what the #ShiftThePower Global Summit was to me: a space to hear uncomfortable truths and to collectively reimagine solutions. When Marie-Rose Romain Murphy of the Haiti Community Foundation said that “we can’t shift power without breaking some rules” it got me thinking…Why do we need these rules in the first place? Why can’t we simply co-create guidelines and principles to follow together with the communities we serve?

The #ShiftThePower Global Summit took place from 5 – 7 December 2023 in Bogotá, Colombia. With over 700 participants hailing from across the globe, the Summit aimed to unite changemakers and catalysts from international development, philanthropy and civil society.

The Summit showed me that there is appetite to co-create, however we are lacking safe spaces, resources, relationships, and the trust to do so in an honest, meaningful and transformative way...

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CAPAIDS Uganda has launched the Local Leadership LABS (LLL) Project dubbed (The Brave Village Project), with the aim of enhancing the voices of local actors to influence development across social economic spheres.

CAPAIDS works with grassroot community based organizations to enable communities to resist, survive and overcome socio-economic inequities.

The LLL project activities will include; constituency building, multi stakeholder engagement, solutions labs and collective learning among others.

In an event that took place at Hillside Plaza Hotel in Bukoto on April 2, 2024 ...

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The Local Leadership Labs is a pilot project supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

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