Community Based Sustainable Development

Sustainable Project Design Aligned To The UN Sustainable Development Goals

Online Courses are offered every month. Current offering dates are in the column to the side.
This training program includes a complimentary PDF eBook of the course textbook: ‘A Field Guide to Community-Based Adaptation‘ (a $37.67 value) by Tim Magee, Routledge, Oxford, England.
To enroll, simply click on the course links below. Enroll in OL 101 first.

An Online Certificate Program of 4 Courses

Are you working in sustainable development in areas such as food security, health and hygiene, watershed management, agriculture, or income generation? Then this training program is for you.
The program will present an ‘online field experience,’ and lead participants through the process of developing sustainable, self sufficient communities. This training program will lead you through the development of a real project, in real time, in a real village.

In our online courses participants are actually designing and launching sustainable development projects—real projects within communities.

This video gives an overview of the 140 Certificate Program.
Advance your Career, Raise Funds and Solve Challenges
This online Sustainable Development Projects training course is for NGO and donor staff—and job-seekers wanting to successfully solve community challenges. Participants work on projects as diverse as food security, water, health, income generation, adaptation to climate change, gender, education—or with connecting farmers to a market—and decided to enroll in the program because they were:
  • developing skill sets for a better job or for a promotion
  • hoping to improve donor communications and donations
  • wanting to learn to develop projects that solve challenges
  • seeking time saving techniques for getting everything done
Aligning Your Project to The UN Sustainable Development Goals
Participant projects begin with engaging community members in a needs assessment and maintaining that engagement throughout the program. During this process, a problem is co-identified and research is conducted into evidence-based best practices for that particular challenge. This happens very early on the first course (101).
We then analyze which of the SDGs does the Challenge align with—and we try and work within that framework to begin project design and development. This lends an internationally accepted direction to the project—and can help to impact negotiations with potential donors.
In this certificate program the sustainable development principles begin with the Brundtland report (‘meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs) and progress through community engagement and evidence-based best practices for long-term sustainability of the solutions that course participants come up with. Aligning with the SDGs offers an international focus, credibility, and access to additional resources for project design, management—and funding.
Learn to Design Sustainable Development Projects

Sustainable Development Certificate Program. In Sustainable Development courses 101 and 102 you will develop projects on the ground—projects that focus on community based Sustainable Development.

OL 103 and 104 you will investigate the special challenges in your Sustainable Development project and refine your project’s activities. Build sustainability and impact into your project by fully engaging the community. Learn how to launch, manage and hand-over a project whose impact may not be measured in years, but in decades.

Click on the course links below to see syllabi, course fees, and to enroll. Enroll in OL 101 first.

How long does it take to complete the diploma and how much will it cost?

101: Designing and Funding Sustainable Development Projects. Contemporary methods of developing sustainable, impact oriented projects. Gain practical field experience using evidence-based activities. Develop a real project in real-time.
102: Funding Sustainable Development Projects. Embed impact into your project design with a powerful set of management tools. Log frames, detailed budgets, timelines, compelling fact sheets, a detailed schedule, M&E plans, outcomes and impact. These tools will communicate to donors and stakeholders exactly what you are trying to accomplish and can be used for effective management of the project once funded.
103/343: The Community Focus. What does sustainable development mean at the community level? What practical tools are available today for communities to use in sustainable development? For practitioners who wish to begin working now at the community level to successfully adapt to the challenges that face us.
Sun Trees Climate Change Adaptation 104/344: Sustainable Implementation. How do you launch and implement a community based sustainable development project? The importance of community engagement and project co-management. Developing skill sets for your community to use in the process. Learning tools: monitoring & evaluation. Community empowerment during project hand-over. Sustainability, follow-up & mentoring.

Resources include links to specialized sustainable development sites, practical articles on identifying sustainable development challenges, and information on sustainable development techniques.

You will receive a course completion certificate upon successful completion of each of the four courses. Upon completing the four courses you also receive a certificate for OL 140 Certificate Program: Project Design for Sustainable Development. Read more about the certificates and the diploma.

Project Design for Sustainable Development Certificate. Online course participants are using our courses to develop real, on-the-ground projects with real communities. People from 153 different countries and over 500 organizations have used CSDi online courses to develop projects impacting over 400,000 people.

“Keep up the good work. I am very grateful for the opportunity I was offered to join the valuable online course six years ago. Due to the assignments related to the course I got in contact with different institutions/NGO’s, communities and individuals. Since then I am involved in more community- based projects, especially with the focus on adaptation to climate change.
All the very best and please feel free to contact me if you need any assistance from me.” Usha Satnarain, MSc. Research-Assistant, Programme in Sustainable Management of Natural Resources. Suriname

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This CSDi training program is offered in 4 venues to best suit your needs:

CSDi OL 101:

Sustainable Development Goals: Project Design, Funding & Management


  • Week 1 Learn to navigate the course website and download the week’s documents.
  • Week 2 & 3 Read the document on participatory needs assessments and conduct an informal assessment with a few community members to uncover a real challenge. List the needs identified and organize them into a clearly described challenge—a development/nonprofit challenge that you are going to solve with your project design. We want this as real as possible.
  • Week 4 We will clarify your project’s challenge, develop a theory of how you plan to solve it, and research 3 solution-oriented activities that would fulfill the premise of your theory.
  • Week 5 Research one peer-reviewed paper for three of your project’s activities and see if scientists have found evidence that they are effective in solving your project’s challenge. Write a one paragraph summary of the papers’ findings.
  • Week 6
    1. Share your proposed project concept locally with colleagues to gain feedback and constructive criticism.
    2. Return to the community with your project concept and get their feedback and hopeful buy-in.
    3. Pick one of your evidence-based activities and write a simple one page guide on how a field staff person could implement it.
  • Week 7 Write a workshop lesson plan for introducing this activity into a community, and then make an illustrated, How-to card to give to community members.
  • Week 8
    1. Share your project with someone that you would like to sell it to: a donor, your boss, your professor, someone in the development/nonprofit world for feedback.
    2. Lay out your challenge, proposed solutions, and activities in a simple matrix (logistic framework) that I will supply. This will prepare you for the next course: OL 102 where you will transform your project into a set of management documents that can formally be presented for funding.

CSDi OL 102:

Course Syllabus
Week 1.
We will take the project challenge, proposed solution, and activities that you developed in OL 101/201, and transform them into a simplified logframe.
Week 2.
1. The focus will be on outcomes and impact, how the current world of development sees them. We will see how we can use them to improve the logframe.
2. We will incorporate outcome and impact statements into the logframe, and begin adding indicators and means of verification in preparation for developing a monitoring and evaluation plan.
Week 3.  We will take the activity list from the logframe and create a budget, and then apply costs to each of the different activities.
Week 4. 
We will take our detailed budget and transform it into a visual timeline/schedule.
Week 5.
1. You will each write a compelling project fact sheet for presentation to donors that is no longer than 2 pages. This concise, quick-to-read document can present a focused message to a donor.
2. Make a list of 2 colleagues, 2 potential NGO partners, and two donors that you can share this working project proposal with. Make appointments with 1 of them.
Week 6.
1. Share your project informally with a donor, your boss, your professor, someone in the development world for feedback. We will discuss why it is a good idea to visit a donor at this preliminary stage, and why you should wait on writing an actual proposal.
2. We will polish this family of documents by including the constructive feedback, and by making sure that the docs are absolutely parallel to each other. We will then carefully print them out and make an appointment with a donor to present your project.

In Summary
This course will take the project concept developed in OL 101/201 and transform it with a powerful set of management tools into a project for presenting to donors. Logframes, detailed budgets, and compelling fact sheets: these tools will communicate to donors, staff, and stakeholders exactly what you are going to accomplish, and lead the effective management of the project once funded.

CSDi OL 103/343:

Course Syllabus

Evidence Based Bar Chart Week 1: Evidence. Review: What is sustainable development? How can we determine if our community’s challenges are linked to sustainable development? We’ll interview local organizations to see who is doing what and/or review which challenges are most prominent locally.
Desertification Illustration Week 2: Definition We’ll compare our project challenge to the challenges local evidence is revealing. Where do we fit in? Is our project linked to sustainable development? What are the current hazards and future challenges? We’ll accurately define the local context. Schedule a Participatory Adaptation Workshop.
Impact evaluation clipboard Week 3: Design a Participatory Community Workshop to share information, collect local knowledge and to learn about community vulnerability, adaptive capacity & traditional strategies; develop a Baseline Survey to better understand pressing local development needs. Download and adapt a Workshop Lesson Plan.
Community and the world Week 4:  Community. Lead the participatory workshop and introduce sustainable development concepts. Present a range of potential community-based sustainable development measures. Encourage feedback: What needs and perceptions did community members express? Start the buy-in process. Conduct the Baseline Survey.
Man with shovel - kitchen garden illustration Week 5: Project Refinement. Use the community feedback & baseline results to incorporate sustainable development activities into your project designed to strengthen resilience. Research scientifically-based best practices and solutions to the community’s special problems. Can these work alongside and/or support local strategies?
Community Committee vote on participatory project Week 6: Feedback and Ownership. Incorporate your refined strategies into your project logframe, budget and schedule. Return to the community for feedback on your design. Show how sustainable development strategies can enhance poverty reduction, livelihoods and disaster risk reduction.
Trees and community driven sustainability Week 7. Sustainability. Plan and organize a workshop to develop a community-based project team. Prepare a presentation that uses appropriate knowledge transfer techniques. Partner with experts in the adaptation specialties you intend to offer to the community.
Children as future leaders Week 8. Leadership. Team Building Workshop. Develop a community-based planning and oversight committee – the community team that you will partner with. Examples could be a committee on water, disaster preparedness, flood control, soil restoration, reforestation, agriculture, or alternative livelihoods.

CSDi OL 104/344:

Course Syllabus

Community need illustration Week 1: Project Management – the community perspective. Managing a project whose outcomes are projected in terms of decades needs to be carefully planned. If we play too large a role in the project process, it will make it more difficult for the community to take over when we leave.
Engaging community members in adaptation project with a vote Week 2: Engaging the community in project launch. If we’ve planned the project properly the community will think that this is their project and that we’re just there to provide the service they requested. We need to maintain that relationship in order to ensure that the community is fully engaged in the process.
Kitchen gardening as a skill set Week 3: Skill Sets. Design a family of workshops on the solutions your community will use in the adaptation process.  The solution activities we select need to be able to be implemented by a broad range of people types.  These workshops will provide the community with all the information that they need to continue these activities for decades.
Project launch clipboard Week 4: Project Launch. Lead the participatory workshop and introduce the community based sustainable development skills designed to address the community expressed needs. Continue to  encourage community feedback to develop lessons learned and to continue building community ownership of the process.
Community member monitoring and evaluation discussion Week 5. Learning tools: Monitoring and evaluation. In the last course we conducted a baseline survey. We now need to do two things: determine what information we’re looking for in order to evaluate short-term outputs and long-term impact, and manage the process of collecting this information.
Hand shake on community project hand-over Week 6. Community Empowerment: Project hand-over. Our 3 years is up, our budget spent & it’s time to leave. Have we empowered the community to take full control at this point?  Have we worked with them to identify milestones that will allow them to stay on track? Can we provide follow-up without taking the project back? Have we introduced supporting partners where they can seek future technical support?