Sustainable Development

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Founded in 1995, the Foundation for Sustainable Development was an early adopter of this sustainable development definition in Our Common Future, the 1987 UN World Commission on Environment and Development report frequently referred to as the Brundtland Report, that remains the standard for sustainable development today.

As an organization in special consultative status with the UN, we stand behind the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and are currently evolving our monitoring and evaluation systems to track progress toward these goals in the communities where we work.

At FSD, sustainable development also has a deeper meaning which guides the work we do. We believe these goals are achievable only if local communities are full participants in the development process and drive the agenda locally. Sustainable development is inclusive development—development in which the voices of all stakeholders are represented and which enriches the lives and well-being of all segments of society while keeping in mind the needs of future generations.

At FSD we take a people-centered and asset-based approach to development. We encourage communities to look inward to identify resources that can be mobilized and built upon for the desired goals. We look for strategies that grow the asset-base of communities and individuals alike and are self-sustaining or self-replicating. We are skeptical of one-size-fits-all development approaches because we believe that sustainable strategies must be rooted in the social, cultural, economic and environmental structures and practices of the community. The best development solutions are ones that meet the felt needs of the people and are easily adapted and replicated. When a solution is right, it spreads organically, and it lasts.

What does “sustainable” mean to you?

Community Development Model

We focus our sustainable development efforts around an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model. We begin by listening to the priorities set by our community-based partners at our international program sites. We then identify and utilize existing assets and capacity to address those priorities.

ABCD focuses on the strengths, capacities, and opportunities within local communities rather than focusing on the deficits that may limit the growth of a community. A key motivation behind utilizing ABCD versus other development approaches stems from our belief that sustainable solutions emerge from within the community.

Changing the way we approach development means a change in attitudes and behaviors regarding the communities where we work. Rather than seeing problems, we look for potential. Instead of noticing gaps, discord, and poverty, we see local value and opportunities. This approach has allowed us to stay true to our mission of over 20 years.

We put communities in control, and they actively participate in goal setting, project planning, and implementation. We partner with more than 200 community-based organizations who are fully invested in participating alongside FSD as we utilize this ABCD model.

Interns and volunteers play a key role in our approach to development by acting as catalysts for change. We seek for participants who are culturally respectful, collaborative, professional, and willing to support community initiatives. We build reciprocal relationships between our community-based partners and volunteers in order to enhance our communities.