SHIKHON: Horizontal Learning Programme in Bangladesh

The elected local government institutions (LGIs) in Bangladesh have a mandate to provide public services to the people, but they lack both capacities and budget. The quality and outreach of their services can be improved at relatively low cost through facilitation of peer learning which benefits millions of people. Recognizing the effectiveness of the peer learning approach across LGIs, the Government of Bangladesh committed to institutionalize this approach in its main training institute for LGI officials, with support from SDC.

Región/País Tema Período Presupuesto

Política del sector público
Participación democrática y sociedad civil
01.12.2018 - 30.11.2022
CHF  3’140’000

The capacity building of local government institutions (LGIs) is a huge challenge for the Government of Bangladesh for four reasons: (i) the size of the client group of around 200,000 elected local government representatives (ii) the wide mandate of LGIs which includes everything from local law and order to educational development (e.g. the Union Parishads, the lowest tier of local government have 38 functions) (iii) the diversified profiles of elected representatives in terms of age, education, skills, experience, etc. and (iv) the very limited capacity and resources of the main government training institution, namely the ‘National Institute of Local Government (NILG). Therefore, in every election cycle of five years, the majority of the elected LGI representatives remain untrained. As a result, the local government institutions (LGIs), or more specifically the Union Parishad (UP), are struggling to deliver expected public services to the people due to a lack of technical and social skills and overall understanding of their mandate. With the right capacity, knowledge and skills, the UPs could play a catalytic role in local level development.

The Horizontal Learning Programme (HLP) is a LGI-led and outcome-based peer to peer learning programme facilitated by the NILG under the guidance of the Local Government Division of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives and supported by SDC and HLP network partners (local NGOs, international NGOs and development partners). It was developed in 2007. HLP enables local government institutions (LGIs) to identify their good practices and then share, replicate, summarize, analyse, and present the lessons learned to policy makers.


The goal of SHIKHON (meaning learning in Bengali) is ‘the LGIs (2000 Union Parishads, 150 Pourasavas and 200 Upazila Parishads) in 25 districts in Bangladesh will contribute to the improvement of well-being of at least 50 million people including women, poor and disadvantaged through wider replication of good practices’.


During this final project phase, the horizontal learning programme (HLP) will become an integral part of NILG as it will become a regular function based in a unit of NILG, and it will be part of the ‘National Capacity Development Framework for LGIs in Bangladesh’. 

SHIKHON will support the National Institute of Local Government (NILG) to establish a new learning unit with additional staff and resources under its research and evaluation department for implementation of the horizontal learning programme. The cost of this learning unit, and of the peer learning between UPs, will be gradually absorbed by NILG through the GoB revenue budget. The intention of GoB to integrate the HLP into its regular revenue budget is clearly spelled out in the project document of Bangladesh Government (namely Technical Assistance Project Proforma, TAPP) and a recent circular of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Grupos destinarios

SHIKHON differentiates between target groups and beneficiaries. The target groups are the local government institutions (LGIs), particularly UPs (2000), Pourashavas (150) and Upazila Parishads (200) with around 35,000 LGI functionaries. It will work all over the country with special focus on the hard to reach areas. 

The beneficiaries are the people whom the project intends to ultimately benefit, even though the project may not directly work with them. These potentially include all citizens, particularly women, poor and disadvantaged in the selected LGIs, with an estimated population of 50 million people in 25 districts.

Efectos a medio plazo

Outcome 1: NILG institutionalizes ‘the Horizontal Learning Programme (HLP) for Union Parishads and introduces HLP to the Pourashavas and Upzilas to improve the well-being for all citizens, and particularly for women, poor and disadvantaged people. 

Outcome 2: Local government institutions (LGIs) implement their mandates more effectively, accountably, transparently, and in an inclusive manner. 

Outcome 3: NILG creates an institutional learning and advocacy culture. 


Resultados previstos:  

  • 5 good practices are successfully replicated in at least 2000 LGIs within project period.
  • 200 champions from citizens emerged through HLP that demonstrate, promote, and advocate on gender based development.
  • 2000 LGIs allocated their own funds for replication of good practices.
  • 30 good practices are integrated within NILG’s regular course curricula and training sessions.
  • 3 policy amendments done by LGD based on HLP Policy Advocacy Notes.

Resultados de las fases anteriores:   The HLP facilitated knowledge and experience sharing among 1250 UPs resulted in the introduction of 45 good practices learned from their peers on different local governance aspects (e.g. participatory UP planning and budgeting, participatory tax collection, water and sanitation, arsenic mitigation, disabled and women friendly UPs, etc.). More than 1250 Union Parishads (UPs) have allocated around CHF 18 million from their own revenue budget to better health and well-being of around 22 million people including 12 million poor and disadvantaged people. The most replicated water, sanitation and local governance practices were incorporated as cases into the NILG Basic Course Curricula for UPs. Besides, three national policies on Water and Sanitation for hard to reach areas, arsenic mitigation and hygiene promotion were developed and four standing orders issued based on HLP learning and experiences.

Dirección / Officina Federal responsable COSUDE
Crédito Cooperación al desarrollo
Contrapartes del proyecto Contraparte del contrato
ONG internacional o extranjera
Institución estatal extrangera
  • Sub-National State SouthEast

Otras contrapartes
Local Government Institutions (LGIs), HLP Network Partners
Coordinación con otros proyectos y actores SHIKHON is inclusive by design, building on the comparative advantages of each single partner in local governance sector such as Sharique, IWRM, Aparajita, Upazila Governance, HYSAWA, Local Governance Support Program, Municipal Governance Support Program, etc.
Presupuesto Fase en curso Presupuesto suizo CHF    3’140’000 Presupuesto actual suizo ya emitido CHF    1’100’458
Fases del proyecto Fase 2 01.12.2018 - 30.11.2022   (Fase en curso) Fase 1 01.09.2011 - 31.08.2016   (Completed)