Community-Driven Development



Village Solutions for Global Change

Community-driven development is bottom-up rather than top-down. We believe the most effective and lasting solutions come from local communities rather than outside experts. Our role is to strengthen these efforts not to design them. We partner with visionary local leaders and organizations with the determination to help their communities thrive and support them through capacity building, technical support, networks, and financial resources.


The village and indigenous communities we work with live at the critical intersection between tradition and modernization. They are a reservoir of deep cultural knowledge, whether it is on the role of community, healthy food systems, or sustainable stewardship of the environment. However, they are also often marginalized, lacking secure rights and equitable access to resources. Now confronting globalization, they are grappling with how to participate in the gains while maintaining self-determination over their future.

The IVS approach to community development

 Community Projects & Partners

The artificial glacier project is an example of the IVS approach to community development
Community engagement is important! We make sure that leaders have the power when thinking about local community development efforts.


Most villages in Ladakh are agricultural and rely on glacial melt for irrigation. Some years, particularly now with climate change, the timing of the glacial melt has become erratic. If the water comes too late, the seeds dry out leading to widespread crop failure. For communities that rely primarily on subsistence agriculture to provide food for the harsh winter months, this can be devastating.

Recently, a Ladakhi engineer named Tsewang Norphel invented the idea of artificial glaciers in hopes of providing a more reliable source of water. Artificial glaciers are essentially large ice reservoirs, created by diverting near-freezing stream water behind rock walls. They are built at lower altitudes than natural glaciers so as the weather warms during the spring months, they melt sooner and provide crucial water for irrigation.

Our students on our Thailand study abroad program learning about IMPECT’s model for community development


Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT) works with a variety of Indigenous Peoples sharing similar situations and experiences, applying traditional knowledge and practices to all aspects of development work. IMPECT works as an association, providing opportunities for participation and ownership of development activities to representatives of the different indigenous groups. The four main areas of action are Cultural Revival and Alternative Education, Promotion of the Environment and Natural Resource Management, Enhancement of Indigenous Peoples’ Movements and Networks and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

Community development with Ban Taptawan


Ban Taptawan is a Moklen village along Thailand’s Andaman coast. The Moklen are one of Thailand’s three last nomadic sea peoples and some of the few remaining worldwide. However, their traditional way of life is under threat due to large-scale coastal development, marine pollution, over-fishing, and lack of secure property rights.

To help preserve their culture and earn income for the community they are trying to create a sustainable model for tourism that shares their way of life and promotes conservation.They have also begun working with IMPECT to create larger networks between indigenous and ethnic communities in Southern Thailand and organize to advocate for their rights.

Sustainable community development with RTEES

Rural Tourism and Environmental Education Society (RTEES)

The Nepal earthquake in 2015 killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed the homes and livelihoods of countless others. We have strong ties to communities in the Rasuwa district of northern Nepal. These remote areas were devastated by the earthquake, and a because of their remoteness, are still getting little, if any, support from the government or large agencies.

We have been partnering with the Rural Tourism and Environmental Education Society (RTEES), a local nonprofit based in Rasuwa, to support relief and reconstruction work. Our immediate efforts focused on delivering food, clothes, and medicine, and then providing sturdy tents and waterproof sleeping pads to make it through the monsoon season.

We recently finished rebuilding homes and community infrastructure with RTEES, and are now determining the next steps for a long-lasting partnership that illustrates effective community development.

Community development with the Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust


The Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT) is dedicated to promoting innovative grassroots measures that lead local people to become better stewards of endangered snow leopards, their prey, and habitat to the benefit of local people and the environment in the trans-Himalayan regions of Ladakh. SLC-IT believes that truly sustainable conservation comes from participation by the entire community.

The founding principle is to work with communities to protect snow leopards and their natural habitat while protecting community livelihoods. SLC-IT fulfills its mission through community-based conservation and livelihood programs, education programs, and wildlife research. For more information, visit their facebook page and blog.

Community development and community engagement with Zwekabin Myay


Zwekabin Myay runs an intensive adult education program for young adults in the Kayin State in Burma. Their aim is to provide students with applicable skills that will let them contribute positively and meaningfully to the development of their communities and country. Change is undoubtedly beginning to make its mark on Burma. Numerous international NGOs have opened offices in Kayin State, while work on many large scale commercial developments is also underway. The long-term impact and influence of these changes remain unclear.

Due to weak networks between the new NGOs and local people, and a perceived lack of suitably-qualified local candidates, some NGOs have been bringing “local staff” from Yangon and elsewhere. This significantly restricts the effectiveness of their work in a state with complex ethnic and linguistic distinctions. The essential starting point for meaningful positive progress and development is to have strong, qualified, able local people leading the way. Zwekabin Myay objective is to train the next generation of local leaders.

Community development and education with SAVE


Founded by Dr. Abhaya Kumar Jain, the Social Awareness Education (SAVE) project provides educational opportunities for low-caste children in Sarnath, India. Life in rural India can be difficult and many families live on less than one dollar per day. Education, for both girls and boys, can be a pathway out of this poverty.

Children from low-caste families in Sarnath have limited opportunities for quality education. To address this, SAVE started fourteen pre-schools and one primary school targeting these children. Pre-school classes take place in village homes or whatever meeting place can be found. They are trying to raise funds to construct a building for a second primary school. SAVE also provides sponsorship for students to attend secondary schools. This costs roughly $150 annually per student and covers their school fees and school-related expenses.