kiessel - Beyond the Linear Logic of Project Aid...

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Beyond the Linear Logic of Project Aid Alternative Understandings of Participation and Community Vitality Amanda Kiessel, PhD, Sewalanka Foundation, Sri Lanka amanda@sewalanka.org Theme: Social Transformation Research domain: Community Vitality ABSTRACT Since the mid-1980s, international development agencies have been responding to critiques of the ‘development industry’ by redirecting their assistance to (1) participatory community development initiatives and (2) targeted project-based aid. These two strategies are rooted in different worldviews and based on contradictory understandings of the nature of social transformation. This paper explores how recent research on complex adaptive systems, ancient Eastern philosophies, and the experiences of participatory development practitioners challenge the linear logic of conventional development interventions. It concludes with the implications of a non-linear world view for participation, community development, and alternative development frameworks like Gross National Happiness. INTRODUCTION The international development industry has changed significantly over the years. In response to critics’ claims that the post-World War II development ‘project’ has been a failure and a waste of resources, international aid agencies have sought new strategies to direct and target development assistance. Since the mid-1980s, there have been two notable changes. First, international donors have placed more emphasis on ‘participatory development.’ Bilateral and multilateral agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alike have provided funding to form and strengthen community-based organizations (CBOs), conduct village-level participatory rural appraisals (PRAs), build village revolving loan funds, and support ‘community initiatives’ in countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Participatory approaches and a village-level focus are expected to reduce the risk of inappropriate
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interventions and, at the same time, contribute to democratic governance and a viable market economy [1]. The second change is that most donors have shifted from flexible, general assistance to more targeted aid and project-based funding [2]. Projects give the donor agencies more control over an intervention, making it easier to demonstrate ‘outputs,’ assess efficiency, and restrict financial support to activities that are consistent with the donor’s worldview. Today, most donors require project plans to be expressed in a Logical Framework matrix that includes the planned goal, purpose, outputs, and activities listed vertically and the intervention logic, objectively verifiable indicators, sources of verification, and project assumptions given horizontally. The planned inputs and expected outputs must be measurable, for example: “‘The number of people below the poverty line will be reduced by 25 percent’ or ‘Incomes will be raised by 30 percent’” [3]. They should also be clearly linked with the activity timeline and budget of the project. An
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This note was uploaded on 10/24/2011 for the course UNIV 2201 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at University of Georgia Athens.

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kiessel - Beyond the Linear Logic of Project Aid...

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