In recent years, the number of local and international NGOs have increased activities focused on the one goal of poverty alleviation. Large sectoral components which concentrate on training and technical expertise in agriculture, forestry, the environment, community development and integrated rural development in general also focus on poverty alleviation and human resource development.
Both local and international NGOs in Vietnam operate at the grassroots level with a greater involvement by the intended beneficiaries such as the local people. Due to their outreach to provinces and districts, they have also been able to play a role in strengthening the supply of public services at a district level and in monitoring and managing development projects. This makes interventions possible because of their greater flexibility and limited bureaucracy. However, none of the NGOs in Vietnam aim to change overall policy regarding research. Many universities are only engaged in academic research, which results only in some professional enhancement, but not for the livelihoods of the local people.
CECAD however performs both academic research and manages development projects. CECAD works to change policy at the national, provincial and district levels. CECAD is committed to applying research results to improve rural livelihoods which are based on local communities’ assets, without depleting their natural resource base. CECAD works to reach the poorest people, especially women and ethnic minorities, and contribute to the socio-economic development of Vietnam. This integrated focus distinguishes the center from other international and local NGOs and universities which are either engaged in specific academic research or development projects.
The approach CECAD employs is asset-based community development (ABCD), which is an alternative to needs-based approaches to development. Community asset building (CAB) emphasizes that community assets such as natural, physical, social, financial and human needs, need to be identified simultaneously with the participatory definition of needs and problems as the first major step in community development. This emphasis results in more creative, self-reliant and feasible actions that significantly “build on and improve” rather than “remove and replace” existing features in the communities.