Our approach


Capacity development in regular SGP projects

Capacity development and learning underpin all SGP activities. An integral understanding of how local communities manage change combined with innovative approaches to capacity development — at all levels and among a broad spectrum of grantees and partner organizations — have proven critical to achieve environment and sustainability goals. Almost all SGP-supported projects include capacity-building, communications and experience-sharing elements.

Many partners consider SGP's capacity development approach one of its most valuable features, whether it takes the form of participating in the NSC, conducting meetings with partners, strategic planning and management of the project, building consensus and promoting dialogue between stakeholders, publishing an article in the media, or developing monitoring and learning tools to measure and reflect on progress. The programme's flexibility and willingness to delegate responsibilities to grantees and partners are positive factors.

Capacity development as standalone projects

In addition to the usual capacity development activities included in regular SGP projects, SGP have started grant-making in Capacity Development as a multifocal area. These grants consist of standalone projects that are strategic and support the work of the other areas of work at the portfolio level. These grants contribute to meet the objectives of the Country Programme Strategy, contribute to the GEF Capacity Development Framework and shall not exceed 10% of total country program grant allocation.

The National Steering Committee in each country will decide whether to use these allocation for Capacity Development grants and will also decide and prioritize what should be the focus of these grants:

- To enhance the capacities of stakeholders to engage throughout the consultative process

- To generate, access and use information and knowledge

- To strengthen capacities to develop policy an legislative frameworks

- To strengthen capacities to implement and manage global convention guidelines

- To enhance capacities to monitor and evaluate environmental impacts and trends

These grants have a specific call for proposals and criteria for the selection process to ensure transparency. The identification and selection process remains in line with established SGP standards and is open to all local and national NGOs and CBOs. The selected entity have to provide a detail project report on the utilization of the funds with a focus on results and indicators.


SGP aspires to empower communities to act and to participate in their own development. SGP is rooted in the belief that global environmental problems can best be addressed through actions that are designed, implemented, and owned by communities, and with benefits that directly accrue to them. In contrast with "expert-reliant" development interventions, SGP emphasizes building on local ecological and cultural knowledge and practice, facilitating innovation and introduction of new techniques as appropriate, and following community leadership in solving problems. SGP is premised on the notion that through the provision of relatively small amounts of funding, local communities can undertake activities that will make a significant improvement in their well being while generating global environmental benefits.


SGP works by taking risks as an incubator of ideas and innovations and providing seed money for CBOs and NGOs to take them forward. Because SGP funding is modest and its interventions designed to be initially small scale, it can readily support community-based experimentation. Once the idea has been tested on the ground and proven to be effective in meeting community needs, it can take off by networking with other CSOs, attracting additional donor support, and being replicated and scaled up. Global environmental benefits are produced through the cumulative effect of small-scale, community-based efforts.


SGP has three "pillars" in its comprehensive approach to sustainable human development: environmental protection, poverty reduction and community empowerment. This approach recognizes the intrinsic linkages between environment and human development issues, particularly at the community level, and advocates that the most effective approach is to integrate environment concerns with sustainable development. The SGP approach leverages shifts towards environmentally sustainable livelihood options, and increases education and awareness on environmental issues. According to the 2006 GEF study on 'The Role of Local Benefits in Global Environmental Programs', the GEF recognized that local benefits and needs are eligible for GEF support in order to secure global environmental benefits, proving the effectiveness of the SGP approach pioneered since the beginning of the Pilot Phase in 1992.

Communities targeted by SGP are often the poorest and most vulnerable, and typically have low levels of technical and institutional capacity to adequately address global environmental problems. SGP helps utilize the full potential of women and men, and transforms marginal and vulnerable sectors into active actors for sustainable development.


SGP considers gender equality and empowerment to be essential elements for achieving sustainable development and global environmental benefits. In this sense, SGP has developed a global gender mainstreaming policy, which lays out the key features of this approach. At the national level, gender is an integral component of the CPS, and SGP country programme team supports all NGO and CBO partners to consider gender in designing and implementing projects.

Key Features of Gender Mainstreaming in SGP

- Gender is one of the main criteria considered for the approval of grants.

- Promotion of gender mainstreaming at the earliest stages of the project cycle. Men and women participate in the initial stages of project conception, approval and implementation.

- Needs assessment is done at the project development phase and is used to define the roles of women and men early in the project. This helps minimize conflict among different stakeholders during and after the project cycle with respect to roles in project activities and sharing of project benefits.

- Document the contribution of women to project activities in key areas where women already figure prominently (e.g., biodiversity management, in situ conservation of agrobiodiversity, conservation of medicinal plants, etc.). This contributes significantly to enhanced integration of gender considerations in current and future projects.

- SGP National Steering Committee employs checklists and criteria to assess and screen projects for how they mainstream gender. Moreover, some SGP countries have developed gender guidelines to mainstream gender into the project cycle.

- SGP's demand-driven approach at the local level increases the likelihood of receiving proposals from women and marginalized groups.

- SGP holds "proposal writing workshops" and accepts project proposals in local languages and even in oral formats through participatory video proposals. Thus encouraging maximum participation by women, indigenous peoples and youth.

- SGP encourages women stand-alone projects in line with the GEF focal areas.

- Grantees are encouraged to participate in the global peer-learning network.

- Field evaluation, including monitoring and evaluation and participatory appraisals, incorporates gender-based indicators to track the status of gender mainstreaming in projects.

- Gender-focused training and sensitization workshops are provided for National Coordinators at the regional level and for grantees at the national level.

- National Steering Committee—a voluntary body that makes all decisions on grant making— are required to include a gender specialist.

- National Coordinator performance is explicitly assessed with respect to results achieved in promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment.


Young people can play an active role in protecting and improving the environment. They can change their lifestyle and how it affects the environment. They can make their homes, schools and youth organizations more environmentally friendly by adopting environmentally friendly practices, recycling of different materials as well as preserving resources such as water and electricity. Engaging youth in environmental protection not only creates direct impact on changing youth behaviors and attitudes, but possibly influence their parents, relatives and families.

SGP privileges the participation of children and young people as the bearers of future commitments and efforts for the global environment and sustainable development. SGP projects with environmental education and raising awareness components almost always involve schoolchildren. Children and youth actively participate in campaigns to protect species and local habitats, tree planting, creating home and community gardens, and renewable energy initiatives that provide solar power for studying – and television watching – among others.

Low income and high unemployment among youth often pose great challenges to community welfare. SGP projects work with youth to enhance their professional skills and provide alternative livelihoods that contribute to global environmental achievements.


Over the past years SGP has grown exponentially and given the decentralization and demand driven approach of the program, Knowledge Management has been a key element of the programme to ensure that all the lessons learned from the implementation of the projects are captured, analyzed and shared with key stakeholders to promote learning within and across communities and countries and to help replicate and scale up its impact, as well as to inform policy.

At the global level SGP is consistently providing guidance, producing knowledge products, using innovative knowledge exchange tools, and sharing valuable information and lessons learned to its difference audiences including the GEF council and GEF Secretariat, UNDP, other donors, national governments, implementing agencies, SGP grantees, NGOs, CBOs, SGP National Coordinator sand National Steering Committee Members, among others.

At the local level, country programme composed works directly with the communities in (i) capturing their lessons; (ii) conducting knowledge exchanges; (iii) organizing training workshops; (iv) establishing and nurturing networks of NGO's and CBO's; (v) working with the government in achieving national environmental priorities; (vi) and helping to scale up and replicate best practices and lessons learned.

SGP projects often become demonstration sites and training centers where local communities carry out peer to peer knowledge exchange and a platform for development practitioners and local policymakers to observe tested methods and technologies developed by communities. These demonstration sites and knowledge exchanges are extremely important and successful in raising awareness and developing the capacities of local communities on key environmental and development issues.

Innovative approaches

SGP has pioneered innovative approaches to knowledge management and exchange below are two examples of our work pilot testing new tools.

Participatory video permits communities to tell their own stories to a global audience. For this reason, SGP was one of the key supporters of the development of "Insights into Participatory Video: A Handbook for the Field" that provides guidance for undertaking participatory video projects with communities and grassroots partners at the helm. Proposals for SGP funding can also be submitted as videos, enabling access to SGP for those communities with low literacy levels.

SGP produced a toolkit for using free software to create photo stories – short videos composed of photos with narration – that yielded 150 photo stories on SGP projects in participating countries.


Replication and up-scaling are fundamental objectives of the GEF Small Grants Programme as it provides the opportunity to build on best practices and lessons learned and expand the reach and impact of its grant making portfolio. The voluntary and multi-sectoral National Steering Committee (NSC) of SGP plays a fundamental role in contributing to upscale and replicate the best practices identified in the portfolio. Given that these voluntary bodies often include several government sector agencies, UNDP, the private sector and a majority of civil society organizations, there are multiple opportunities for these stakeholders to support the replication and up scaling of the most successful projects and practices through their networks and contacts.

Over the years, GEF SGP has contributed to up-scaling of good practices through its linkages with and contribution to the development of GEF medium and full-sized projects by UNDP and other agencies that build on SGP experience. Another aspect that helps to promote the replication and up-scaling of good practices at the local level are SGP projects that become demonstration sites of innovative methodologies or technologies and where other communities, government officials and even private sector companies go to learn from the experience of these communities.


Through GEF SGP, CSOs and communities have contributed directly to local, regional, national, and international planning and policy processes. GEF SGP experiences and lessons learned have been recognized and incorporated in local and national policy development, and have influenced changes in municipal and provincial regulations, national laws, and have sometimes contributed local level insights to international environmental processes through participation of SGP grantees and NSC members in national consultative dialogues. GEF SGP grantee and partner networks have been vital for convening and influencing policy dialogues from the local to the national and global levels.

At all levels, partnerships with key government and nongovernmental authorities and policy makers, as well as influential donors and other allies, help ensure that well-informed support exists for SGP and that SGP's approach can be mainstreamed into sustainable development policy and practice.

The positive policy effects of SGP's long-term and active presence in countries can be readily seen in all the GEF focal areas. It would be safe to say that SGP has influenced the development of local and national strategies and policies in the GEF focal areas in all participating countries. Although SGP has policy impact across the GEF focal areas, it has been especially notable in the biodiversity and climate change focal areas that comprise the bulk of SGP's global portfolio.