How Development Projects Persist

Everyday Negotiations with Guatemalan NGOs

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 11 illustrations Published: May 2017

Author: Erin Beck

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Central America, Politics > Political Science

In How Development Projects Persist Erin Beck examines microfinance NGOs working in Guatemala and problematizes the accepted wisdom of how NGOs function. Drawing on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork, she shows how development models and plans become entangled in the relationships among local actors in ways that alter what they are, how they are valued, and the conditions of their persistence. Beck focuses on two NGOs that use drastically different methods in working with poor rural women in Guatemala. She highlights how each program's beneficiaries—diverse groups of savvy women—exercise their agency by creatively appropriating, resisting, and reinterpreting the lessons of the NGOs to match their personal needs. Beck uses this dynamic—in which the goals of the developers and women do not often overlap—to theorize development projects as social interactions in which policymakers, workers, and beneficiaries critically shape what happens on the ground. This book displaces the notion that development projects are top-down northern interventions into a passive global south by offering a provocative account of how local conditions, ongoing interactions, and even fundamental tensions inherent in development work allow such projects to persist, but in new and unexpected ways.


"Beck’s work is a great contribution to international development literature." — Deo Zihindula Namwira, Review of Social Studies

How Development Projects Persist adds to an important theoretic discussion in the field of nonprofits and is an interesting read. . . . A good book for those who are interested in microfinance and development nonprofit organizations, as well as those who are interested in how beneficiaries influence organizational programming.” — Seth J. Meyer, Voluntas

How Development Projects Persist provides valuable thick data that is recommended for all students and practitioners of international development.” — Lazar Konforti, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Erin Beck has made a lasting contribution to the field of development studies in theorising development as a social interaction while also raising important issues for policy and practice. How Development Projects Persist is a call to contemplate, assess and study development not simply according to the goals of policymakers and organisations, but according to the larger vision and life goals of the people that interventions hope to serve."

— Bronwen Gillespie, Anthropology in Action

"The strength of Why Development Projects Persist is the quality of Beck’s data. . . . Beck writes her ethnographic data with completeness and clarity, which allows the reader to understand the intentions of these organizations, the worldviews of participants, and the ways these clashed as the NGOs’ visions of development were put into practice." — Laura J. Heideman, American Journal of Sociology

"The text’s strength lies in its conceptual breadth and accessibility. . . . An easy, yet enlightening read. . . . Beck effectively shows rather than just tells what development encounters look like and how they are interpreted by the actors involved." — Monica DeHart, Anthropological Quarterly

"Erin Beck presents a useful, rigorous, and interesting analysis of the internal workings of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Guatemala." — Glenn Wright, Latin American Politics and Society

“This book. . . is useful to those interested in international studies, development studies, as well as development practitioners. . . . Further, Beck’s detailed analysis is well-written and jargon-free, and presents us with a balanced and longitudinal view of NGO development projects in Guatemala.”

— Michelle Moran-Taylor, Journal of Latin American Geography

"Erin Beck's extraordinary book is a major contribution to both development policy and development scholarship. It reminds readers that development projects don't just appear, intervene, and leave, but rather are themselves part of long, complex trajectories. Important, accessible, and setting a provocative agenda for development studies, How Development Projects Persist is a highly effective teaching tool for both undergraduate and graduate students and should be required reading for development workers and all scholars of NGOs, humanitarianism, and development." — Jocelyn Viterna, author of Women in War: The Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador

"By highlighting the ways people animate and transform NGO interventions, Erin Beck challenges accounts of NGOs that imply that development is merely something that happens to people. Demonstrating the need to embrace the frequently observed gap between the intentions and outcomes of development projects, Beck's excellent book offers us a rich set of insights into women's lives, identities, and agency as well as an understanding of the everyday working lives of NGO workers." — David Lewis, London School of Economics & Political Science


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Erin Beck is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
1. Social Engineering from Above and Below  1
2. Repackaging Development in Guatemala  29
3. Namaste's Bootstrap Model  64
4. Women and Workers Responding to Bootstrap Development  90
5. The Fraternity's Holistic Model  134
6. The Uneven Practices and Experiences of Holistic Development  162
7. The Implications of Socially Constructed Development  208
Appendix. Research Methods and Ethical Dilemmas  225
Notes  233
References  239
Index  259
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Co-Winner, 2018 American Sociological Association Sociology of Development Section Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6378-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6961-5
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