Policy Research | Leading the Way: how intentional capacity strengthening helped locally-led COVID-19 response in three countries

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In 2016, CRS began the Preparing to Excel in Emergency Response (PEER) project to strengthen the emergency response capacity of Local Faith Institutions in India, Indonesia, Jordan, and Lebanon. The project ended in 2018, however, in 2020, PEER partners had begun responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and CRS was eager to learn about their efforts, and if capacity strengthening investments made during the PEER project were sustained and utilized during the COVID-19 response.

The study’s findings show how the PEER partners’ COVID-19 response illustrates their ability to serve their communities, as they have provided emergency response to millions of people in this unprecedented emergency. In part, their ability to effectively respond was made possible by CRS’s investment in strengthening their capacity over the PEER and via CRS’s continued relationship. All 22 partners interviewed for this study felt their organization were applying lessons learned from participating in PEER and working with improved systems, which enabled a more effective emergency response.

Recommendations for Donors:

  1. Direct more funding to local actors.
  2. Extend localization beyond project implementation, to support local actors’ roles in the broader system over the long term.
  3. Invest more in intentional, holistic capacity strengthening programming.
  4. Value local actors’ existing capacities and local knowledge, while recognizing donor and INGO limitations.

Recommendations for INGOs:

  1. Reimagine capacity strengthening projects as long-term, holistic, partnerships which focus on relationship building and accompaniment.
  2. Capacity strengthening projects should include intentional resource mobilization.
  3. Ensure the needs of local partners to strengthen capacity are clear and jointly defined.
  4. Do not just provide the skills, but also the systems and tools to use those skills.


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