Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Practice, power and meaning: frameworks for studying organisational culture in multi-agency rural development projects

By David Lewis, Anthony J. Bebbington, Simon Batterbury, Alpa Shah, Elizabeth Olson, M. Shameem Siddiqi and Sandra Duvall


Culture has received increasing attention in critical development studies, though the notion that there are important cultural differences within and between development organisations has received less consideration. This paper elaborates elements of a framework for studying organizational culture in multi-agency development projects. It draws on selected writings in anthropology and in organizational theory and suggests that these two bodies of literature can be usefully brought together, as well as on insights from ongoing fieldwork in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Peru. At the centre of this framework is the analysis of context, practice and power. Where development projects involve multiple organizations (such as donors, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and grassroots groups) an analysis of cultures both within and between organizational actors can help explain important aspects of project performance. The paper argues that organizational culture is constantly being produced within projects, sometimes tending towards integration, often towards fragmentation. This fragmentation, indicative of the range of cultures within development organizations, is an important reason why some projects fail, and why ideas stated in project documents are often not realized, especially in the case of the newer and more contentious objectives such as 'empowerment'

Topics: HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Publisher: Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2002
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles


    1. (2002). A paradox of learning in project cycle management and the role of organisational culture’. Unpublished paper, doi
    2. (1995). Anthropologie et développement: Essai en socioanthropologie du changement social. doi
    3. (1997). Anthropology and its evil twin: ‘development’ in the constitution of a discipline’.
    4. (1996). Anthropology, Development and the Postmodern Challenge.
    5. (1984). Breaking New Ground: Agricultural Anthropology. International Potato Center, doi
    6. (1979). Central problems in social theory: Action, structure and contradiction in social analysis. doi
    7. (1992). Corporate Culture and Performance.
    8. (2000). Courtiers en développement: Les villages africains en quête de projets. Editions Karthala, doi
    9. (2001). Creating Corporate Reputations: Identity, Image and Performance. doi
    10. (1991). Culture and Organizations: Software of the Mind. doi
    11. (1994). Culture and Organizations. doi
    12. (1999). Culture: The Anthropologist’s Account. doi
    13. (2001). Development Ethnographies. doi
    14. (1997). Development Ideas in Latin America: Paradigm Shift and the Economic Commission for Latin America’. In
    15. (2001). Empowerment at last?’ doi
    16. (1995). Encountering Development: the Making and Unmaking of the Third World doi
    17. (2001). Finding the field: notes on the ethnography of NGOs’.
    18. (1992). From Paradigm Lost to Paradigm Regained? The Case for an ActorOriented Sociology of development’.
    19. (1997). Good Government in the Tropics.
    20. (2002). IFI’s and IPG’s: operational implications for the World Bank’. Working
    21. (1997). Images of Organization. Second Edition.
    22. (1997). Implementing the World Food Summit Plan of Action’. doi
    23. (1982). In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. Harper and Row, doi
    24. (1996). Japan, the World Bank, and the Art of Paradigm Maintenance: The East Asian Miracle in Political Perspective’
    25. (1998). Law, Power and Politics in Niger - Land Struggles and the Rural Code. doi
    26. (1998). Les Pouvoirs au village: le Bénin entre democratisation et decentralisation. Editions Karthala,
    27. (1998). Local Environmental Management, Land Degradation and the ‘Gestion des Terroirs’ Approach in West Africa; policies and pitfalls’. doi
    28. (2001). Manufacturing the global. doi
    29. (2000). Mapping discourse, explaining action: social capital in theory and practice at the World Bank. Paper presented at the workshop ‘Practical Theory, Reflective Action: Social Capital and Development Projects at the World Bank’
    30. (2001). Organisation and development: a practice perspective’. In
    31. (1997). Organisation Theory: Modern Symbolic and Post-modern Perspectives.
    32. (2002). Organization and Management in the Third Sector: Towards A CrossCultural Research Agenda’, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, doi
    33. (2002). Organizational Culture: mapping the terrain. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks/London/New Delhi. doi
    34. (1983). Organizational microcosms and ideological negotiation’.
    35. (1998). Partnership as Process: Building an Institutional Ethnography of an Inter-Agency Aquaculture Project in Bangladesh’.
    36. (1992). Planned change in an organized anarchy: support for a post-modernist perspective’. doi
    37. (2000). Re-encountering development: livelihood transitions and place transformations in the doi
    38. (2002). Reflexões sobre a relação Norte Sul na construção de conhecimentos sobre as ONGs na América Latina.’ ABONG.
    39. (1999). Revealing, widening, deepening?: a review of the existing and potential contribution of anthropological approaches to ‘third sector’ research’.
    40. (1998). Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. doi
    41. (1997). States without citizens’.
    42. (1990). The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. doi
    43. (2001). The birth of a discipline. Producing authoritative green knowledge, World Bank style’. doi
    44. (2001). The Everyday State: Anthropological Perspectives on the State and Society in Modern India. doi
    45. (2001). The international production of authoritative knowledge; the case of drought-stricken doi
    46. (1997). The Making of Rural Development: actors, arenas and paradigms’. Paper for the Anniversary symposium of the Department of Rural Sociology,
    47. (2001). The Management of Non-Governmental Development Organizations: An Introduction. doi
    48. (1991). The State and Agrarian Change in Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas. doi
    49. (1998). Top-down meets Bottom-up: Institutional Performance and the Evaluation/Monitoring of the EU's SME Policies in Galicia and Sardinia’. D.Phil thesis,
    50. (1988). Understanding Voluntary Organizations.
    51. (1998). Une association de dévelopement en pays Mossi: le don comme ruse.

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.