Six local NGOs and AusAID have presented a strong and united message to the Solomon Islands government and the development community that working together and using a strength-based approach can bring about more sustainable development.

A strengths-based approach is one where communities identify their own priorities, own resources, and then contribute to the final development with the support of the NGO.

At an awareness program held on Tuesday for the development community and civil society, the seven members of the Solomon Islands NGO Partnership Agreement (SINPA) spoke of the many examples of communities taking the lead in their own infrastructure, gender, youth and livelihood projects - rather than waiting for 'hand-outs'.

Coordinator of the SINPA program, Mr Hickson George said, "We have found that SINPA's approach of working in partnership between donors, NGOs and the community, and this strength-based approach is a good way of doing community development in Solomon Islands."

"Our goal is to improve the health and livelihood opportunities of Solomon Islanders, particularly women and young people - through partnership and an approach that fits Solomon Island communities," Mr George said.

"The strength-based approach enables us to sit down with communities to help them dream, prioritise and plan community-led projects activities.

"It also helps people rediscover and use existing resources in their community; like timber, land, building materials, and skilled and unskilled labour. The results are projects that are truly community-led, community-owned and that means more sustainable, but at the same time more accountable

AusAID representative, Siddhartha Chakrabarti, told the meeting that SINPA was formed in response to the need for a better and more united approach for improving people's lives in rural communities.

"In 2009, AusAID, together with six Australian NGOs and their Solomon Islands partners came together with one aim - to find a better, more sustainable, more flexible, more cooperative and more empowering way to improve the health and livelihoods of Solomon Islanders at the village level - the result was SINPA," Mr Chakrabarti said.

"SINPA works in partnership with communities and allows people to lead and work on their own development needs and aspirations."

Six presentations from each NGO and videos from four communities all spoke of success across the themes of partnership, accountability, youth, gender, participation and sustainability.

Director for Ministry of Women, Youth, Culture and Children's Affairs, Mr Edward Anisitolo, thanked the group for their presentations and said that his ministry was interested to hear more about the work of SINPA.

"SINPA sounds like a good idea and you have been doing good things," Mr Anisitolo said.

Hickson George said while working with six different organizations had its challenges, as did introducing a strength-based approach to communities - the benefits more than compensated.

"Communities, once they realize their own strengths and their own resources, can take a lead role in the development of their own community. We call on other agencies, to consider the same approach for better community-based development projects," Mr George said.

The six NGOs represented were - Oxfam, Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA), Adventist Development & Relief Agency (ADRA), Save the Children, Live and Learn and Inclusive Communities Program.

Source: Press Release, Solomon Islands NGO Partnership Agreement