Beyond Buzzwords: A Case Study of U.S. NGO Implementation of Sustainable and Participatory Development in Rural Guatemala. Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_projects/8049g9961

2017

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  • Over the last several decades, the narrative around international development has shifted away from neoclassical models towards an increased focus on sustainability and community-driven participatory approaches. However, there is a lack of research looking at whether these theoretical concepts manifest in practical realities that avoid the imperialistic flaws of previous development approaches. This study asks: Are the broad theoretical shifts in international development toward a more sustainable and participatory paradigm reflected in a practical shift in the operations of NGOs? These dynamics are explored through semi-structured interviews and participant observation in this qualitative case study about a U.S. grassroots sustainable development NGO that works in Guatemala to provide education, employment, and environmental stewardship to a rural indigenous community. This is a most likely case study which hypothesizes that the operations of the NGO studied do in fact reflect the broader theoretical shift. The theory of social constructivism serves as a framework to examine how key concepts such as ‘development’ and ‘sustainability’ are defined across cultures and socially constructed. An analysis of responses from community members and NGO staff shows that the NGO does deviate from the development approaches of the past, yet does not confirm the hypothesis because it does not wholly reflect the theoretical shift toward a sustainable and participatory paradigm. These results can help inform international development policy and other foreign NGOs endeavoring to balance aid and international influence with local community involvement and sustainability.
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