Projects retain a crucial role in international aid. There are standard ways to evaluate them in terms of predefined objectives and the logic of connections for reaching those objectives. Projects typically face sustainability problems once the inducement of external resources is over, for their project logic is too narrow. In contrast, this paper proposes an interpretive analytical framework to assess project effects on human lives, in particular the effects on individual autonomy. It goes beyond looking at project outputs and short-run effectiveness in terms of project-specified objectives, and proposes a development effectiveness criterion that looks at whether and how projects positively influence individual autonomy: a human autonomy effectiveness criterion. The focus is on individuals as agents of change, and on individuals’ goals and values, rather than on projects as designed to directly produce other changes. The framework identifies relevant processes, practices and relationships during a project cycle. It aims at contributing to design, implementation and evaluation of aid projects so that participants are able to achieve valued goals, with greater chance of sustained positive effects. The paper is based on a completed study of four infrastructure projects in Nicaragua and El Salvador supported by the aid agency of Luxembourg, between 1999 and 2005.

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Maastricht University
ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Gasper, D., & Muñiz Castillo, M. (2009). Looking for long-run human development effectiveness: An autonomy-centred framework for project evaluation. ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development. Retrieved from