When discussing the sustainability of a development research project, we should distinguish between two different aspects of this concept:
- Environmental sustainability. This concept describes how a biological system can remain healthy and self-supporting on a long time scale without species getting extinguished. In the same sense one distinguishes between sustainable (or durable) energy provisions (e.g., solar), in contrast with energy from almost depleted sources like coal or oil. This notion can also be extended to human society whenever a political or economical system can warrant a long-term well-being for the population.
- Project sustainability. A project is called sustainable when a continued utilization of its results can be assured after the completion of the project.
When a project delivers a contribution to environmental sustainability, this will normally be appreciated by its impact or its relevance. In this annex we will therefore focus more on the project sustainability.
How can it be used
Ex ante: In order to assess the sustainability of a project, one should try to determine if various conditions that can assure the continuation of the benefits of the project are satisfied. Examples of such conditions are:
- Identification: Do the researchers submitting the project have a clear view on which results they would like to be implemented in a permanent way?
- Commitment: Are the local stakeholders sufficiently involved in the project? Are the local (academic) authorities supporting the project? Is the project embedded in a larger research initiative : national/regional/international?
- Financial: Will there be sufficient money available after the project to continue with its application? Is the necessary infrastructure available and are there provisions for the maintenance of these facilities?
- Visibility: Which measures are foreseen to communicate the results of the project to the local community? Will there be an effort to transfer the necessary knowledge and skills ?
Ex post: Obviously, the same questions can be asked as at the beginning of a project. Additionally, one may ask whether special measures have been taken to assure the sustainability or to remedy its foreseeable shortcomings. Has the local partner being strengthened enough to be able to raise its own funding ? to transfer skills and knowledge? (See also the annex conditions)