Aid policy, aid projects and aid practitioners. The role of agency, actors and interfaces in 'pro-poor development' projects in post-apartheid South Africa and post-communist Baltic States
McAlinden, Peter Gerard
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The dissertation is about understanding the role of agency in the production of the unintended outcomes of international development interventions ‘designed’ to eliminate rural poverty and underdevelopment. It takes as its focus, its unifying theme and its principal actor, the collective of ‘the project team’ and the specific of ‘the project worker’. The study seeks to explore, from an actor perspective, what actually happens when a team of development consultants, including myself, undertakes an external intervention with the explicit aim of providing technical assistance to address rural poverty and social exclusion. From a standpoint informed largely by an analytical autobiographical approach, it follows the project worker and team’s interaction with the development community and its agents around the definition of purpose, goal and form of two projects, in post-soviet Baltic States and post-apartheid South Africa. Beyond the inevitable ambiguity of project aims and logic, this account attempts to look inside the black-box of project implementation. We set out to investigate how ideas, relationships and power interact, how project teams engage with national, regional and local administrations to deliver to target communities and how project practitioners and ‘beneficiaries’ create room for manoeuvre and interpret policy in the practice at the interface. In doing so, we seek to understand better how ‘successful’ projects are socially produced and depend on building sufficiently broad communities of believers in the compelling narrative of the idea with power, although in the longer term exposed to the vagaries of policy shifts within the international donor community.
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