Chapter 1. Social Engineering from Above and Below
1. Community and municipality names, as well as the names of individuals other
than Robert Graham, have been changed to protect women’s identities, but ngos’
names have been maintained. For a discussion of the reasoning behind these decisions,
see the appendix. Quoted material from individuals will feature a pseudonym and the
year comments were made.
2. These terms refer to ideal types, and the positions of these actors are likely to
vary across organizations and across time. For example, Namaste’s policymakers have
historically included the founder and board of directors, located in San Francisco.
The regional director in Guatemala influenced policy but did not have the final
say, and was more appropriately labeled an ngo leader. In contrast, the Fraternity’s
director, for the majority of its history, could be seen as both the ngo leader and the
main policymaker. After her death, however, the board of directors took on a more
active role in crafting formal policy, and its members could subsequently be seen
as ngo leaders and policymakers (even though some of them were simultaneously
beneficiaries as they continued to receive goods/services in their loan groups). The
fluidity of these roles further demonstrates the dynamic and contingent nature of
development on the ground.
3. The capabilities approach developed by Martha Nussbaum, for example,
distinguishes between internal capabilities and external capabilities in order to
demonstrate that human flourishing requires not just adequate external conditions
but also people’s own sense that they are actually capable and worthy of doing so
(Nussbaum 2001). Arjun Appadurai similarly emphasizes developing the capacity
to aspire as crucial to development, entailing the ability to link the more and less
immediate objects of aspiration and to develop, articulate, and work effectively toward
an expanded vision of the good life (Appadurai 2004). These works mirror earlier
feminist theories of power that emphasize the “power within” (Rowlands 1997).
4. Alicia, director of Fraternity, interview with the author, 2009.
5. I thank David Lewis for this observation.
6. Some studies that have relied on in-­depth ethnographies of ngos and
development interventions have begun to uncover the multiple ways that beneficiaries,
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