For decades poor and marginalized people were viewed as the target of poverty reduction efforts rather than stakeholders or contributors to the development agenda. Development experts saw themselves as the sole owners of development wisdom and having all the answers to the problems which faced the poor. Hence they dominated rather than facilitated decision making disregarding and undervaluing the local knowledge and capacity of the local communities to effect positive and sustainable development in their locales.
The predecessors of the SSDF faced challenges but also learnt from these past experiences recognizing that development initiatives which ignore the input and contribution of all stakeholders, particularly, the final beneficiary, usually do not result in beneficiary buy-in and project sustainability. Too often the projects undertaken in communities were vandalized and destroyed while others became nothing more than white elephants. In its efforts to increase the level of beneficiary buy-in and to make projects more relevant to the needs of the communities and in that way ensure project sustainability the SSDF has mainstreamed the participatory and community driven development approaches in its community development initiatives.
Community Driven Development (CDD) is an approach which responds to the needs of individuals and communities rather than imposes development initiatives on these communities. Hence instead of viewing communities and individuals as merely the recipients of aid, this approach treats poor people and their institutions as assets and partners in the search for sustainable solutions to development challenges.
Participatory Development is probably the most utilized term in present development jargon and is an approach which the SSDF utilizes in the delivery of its development interventions. Participation, or participatory development utlilises the local knowledge and expertise which exist in a community and engages beneficiaries and stakeholders in all stages of the project cycle through community meetings and consultations. Through those consultations the views and input of all stakeholders are elicited and included in the preparation and implementation of projects. SSDF is committed to the use of this approach as it increases beneficiary buy-in and enhances project sustainability, two factors that are crucial for successful project implementation.