We have proposed elsewhere an alternative analytical framework for project evaluation and a criterion of ‘human autonomy effectiveness’ to examine the effects of aid projects on the lives, opportunities and capacities of participants (Muñiz Castillo & Gasper, 2009). A project is human-autonomy effective when it promotes an expansion of individual autonomy that allows people to support and sustain their own development, in a way that does not constrain other priority capabilities. In this paper, we explore how four aid projects influenced the autonomy of local participants, by examining their project logic. We elicit key assumptions behind the projects’ design and implementation; identify significant project practices (forms of interaction and practical strategies); and analyse the practices’ possible influence on the participants’ autonomy. The paper shows that we need to understand the project logic in a deeper way than through the conventional ‘logical framework’ approach. Power relations between project stakeholders are crucial elements of the actual practices that influence the access to resources as result of the projects. Moreover, practices such as top-down design or excessive conditionality could harm participants’ autonomy despite being supportive to other goals, and thus have negative longer-run significance. When project practices constrain the opportunities and perceived competence of individuals to help themselves, the ‘development’ or change promoted by those projects is not sustainable (Ellerman, 2006).

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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). Exploring human autonomy effectiveness: Project logic and its effects on individual autonomy. ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/17964