Panagora Group: U.S. Small Business Makes Locally Led Development Stick

Feb 11 2022

U.S. small businesses play an essential role in sustainable global development by engaging, strengthening, and partnering with local organizations and other actors. We are nimble, quick to mobilize, and understand local organizations’ needs for capacity building and the obstacles they face in enterprise-led development. 

Panagora Group is a woman-owned and employee-owned small business that is deeply committed to locally led development. Our mission is “making our world a better place for good.” We want to do good and “make it stick,” so we employ inclusive development approaches to build and strengthen the capacity of local partners. Moreover, we ensure that local voices inform USAID projects and program cycles by emphasizing host-country resources when staffing our activities, engaging consultants, and selecting our subcontractors. Under our prime long-term USAID MEL platform contracts across Africa, Asia, and Latin America:

  • Almost 90 percent of our long-term staff and almost 80 percent of our short-term experts are host country nationals. 
  • We have awarded more than 80 percent of our subcontracts under these activities to local partners, totaling more than $3.1 million.

Throughout our contracts, Panagora Group has shown how engaging local stakeholders paves the way for more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development outcomes. We concentrate on five key tactics to ensure local voices are driving locally led solutions: hiring local experts for our activity offices, engaging local consultants, developing the capacity of local organizations, progressively transferring key responsibilities to local partners, and scaling up organizational capacity building through local actors. Below we highlight examples of these tactics among our contracts:

Hiring local experts. Over the last four years, Panagora has led USAID/Philippines Collaboration, Learning, and Adapting for Improved Health (CLAimHealth) through a staff that is 99 percent Filipino. Among its achievements, this expert team conducts a robust annual and cumulative whole-of-health portfolio performance evaluation – the first of its kind – and launched a CLA Working Group through which USAID, IPs, and national actors collaborate on locally led solutions. 

Developing the capacity of local organizations. As a subcontractor on USAID/Bangladesh’s Smiling Sun Franchise Program, Panagora worked closely with Capacity Building Services Group (CBSG), a local Bangladeshi partner, to provide organizational development and mentoring support to 26 Bangladeshi health NGOs. Employing a novel assessment process and implementing a network-wide plan that featured applied training and an innovative mentoring and coaching program, Panagora and CBSG tripled the target number of local NGOs and organizations ready to receive direct awards. Since then, CBSG has grown significantly, becoming a preferred USAID contractor for implementing partners, as well as bilateral and multilateral institutions. 

Engaging local consultants. As prime on the USAID/Colombia MEL platform, Panagora has subcontracted five local partners to conduct MEL assignments valued at $1.7 million over the past two years and, at the same time, has strengthened their capacity to take on larger international development contracts. 

Transferring responsibility to local partners. As prime contractor on the USAID/South Africa Technical Support Services activity, Panagora has worked closely with USAID to support five local IPs that provide HIV and TB services in 15 districts throughout South Africa. To strengthen local partner participation, TSS supported Panagora in transitioning key parts of its work in three provinces to Anova, a local organization. TSS provided critical strategic information and M&E support at multiple levels of Anova’s organization to help them manage rapid program expansion as a direct USAID partner and foster sustained staff capacity to expand its work with other bilateral, multilateral, and private foundation supporters. 

Scaling up local capacity building. Under a subcontract on USAID/Afghanistan’s RADP-South, Panagora led a capacity building initiative for two major Afghan implementing partners. We facilitated data-driven organizational capacity self-assessments, developed roadmaps for key system and process improvements, and developed a comprehensive organizational development toolkit. The kit had applied training modules in management and governance; a lifecycle approach to project development and management; gender mainstreaming; USAID rules and regulations; strategic planning; and sustainability planning and resource management. 

These are just a few of the examples that show the transformative role U.S. small businesses like Panagora can play in achieving the goals of locally led development. We have worked with USAID for years to help shift development programming from donor-led decision making to putting power in the hands of local actors. As a group, U.S. small businesses that specialize in development are nimble, innovative, and committed to sustainable and inclusive development. We are right sized to see it through and make it stick.