The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the term, “sustainability” as (the ability to) “keep (something) going over time or continuously.” In context of a community-based service delivery program, it can mean to be the ability of the program to provide the services continuously or for over a longer period of time.
A sustainable program should not just be self-sufficient, but also self-reliant. The emphasis on sustainability of a program is to reduce the dependency on external support, ensure participation and ownership of the community through their contribution and to adopt cost-effective approaches for success. A sustainable project is one which has to be well-managed by a skilled and trained community demonstrating leadership and vision. A sustainable project is possible when the community is involved from the day one of the intervention and a clear withdrawal strategy is placed by the organization providing the support. A sense of ownership should be integrated into the community so that they are able to manage the process willingly at some point. The respective role of the community and sustainability of the program is directly related. If the community is not involved and does not perceive that it has a stake in the success of the scheme, it will lose interest and fail to join it, thereby leading to winding up of the scheme.
The question of external support and sustainability often comes into debate. Some projects receive support from donors, but after some time, when the support ends, the projects fail to continue. Projects should be developed independent of any support. However, it is also recognized that initially the projects cannot operate under absolute independence. It is important for projects to recover recurrent costs for maintenance of operations and activities. Without recovering the costs, projects cannot be financially viable and may eventually fail.
Read about…NGO Sustainability