To Intervene or not to Intervene?

Likewise, grabbling with the ideas presented by [Francis] Cleaver and others are necessary to ground one’s appreciation that NGO projects are not precise injections that can bypass the complexities of our interconnected world. They intervene just as fully in existing social orders as they do in their target jurisdictions of improved livelihoods and material well-being…

All of that said, social disruption is not orthogonal to a successful and effective development project. It is decidedly not the case that development interventions are inserted into a static social order that has somehow happened upon a perfectly balanced Chi. Social orders are alive; they live and breathe and evolve every minute of every day. They respond constantly to changes in law and policy, in regional leadership, in urban migration, in industrialization, and in a million other seen and unseen forces.

In nearly all instances we are outsiders in the contexts in which we attempt our interventions. And as outsiders we are just as likely to overestimate the negative effects of an intervention as to underestimate them. The best that we can do is to be thoughtful, tread lightly, and use the best evidence and evaluation methods we have available to course-correct when we run aground.

Those paragraphs were an excerpt from from my second paper in Development Management.



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