The style and substance of a project's initial contact with local communities will have implications for its subsequent ability to handle the issue of "dependency". Many communities equate projects with opportunities for gaining cash; projects that obviously display wealth are likely to reinforce these ideas. Projects must aim at building self-reliance at the local level. Rather than "doing" development, they must provide catalytic support for it. Initial contact with villagers – community entry – is vital as it is the entry point for trust building, information gathering, awareness raising, education and most other project activities.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 indicates that empowering communities can be a factor in enabling the poor to achieve economic livelihood.
Broad public participation should be enabled in all phases in development and redevelopment of settlement. Widespread participation in electoral politics– as voters, candidates and elected officials – is another essential element of sustainable communities because it fosters debate, responsibility and accountability.