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

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/07/2003
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of International Development
Issue number5
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)541-557
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Culture has received increasing attention in critical development studies, though the notion that there are important cultural differences within and between development organizations 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'.