Mico-Projects in a Macro World: How to Ensure Non-profit International Development Projects Succeed Where Others Fail
Small-scale non-profits engaged in international work often set out with lofty aims, only to discover their projects fail or are rejected by local communities. Innovative approaches to successful development projects include partnering with local NGOs specializing in capacity building, while heeding a number of lessons learned from past development work to ensure that micro-level projects succeed. First, efforts to implement appropriate technologies in indigenous communities often fail because project planners do not consider cultural, historical and material constraints. These constraints include unequal power relations within communities that hinder resource access and distribution; prior community experience with colonial or development projects that had adverse impacts; and geographical isolation and environmental extremes that limit project success. Second, economic leakages often result in the financial benefits from development projects leaving local communities. Third, although micro-projects have the potential to be among the most beneficial to communities, strategic partnering with NGOs may provide key resources as well as social and political capital necessary for success. In this paper, we discuss these and other innovations related to the success of rural development micro-projects. We then consider how to strategically partner with NGOs, despite potential conflicts of interest that may arise. In expanding on innovative NGO approaches to development, we address capacity trust-building techniques, innovative methodologies, and deployment styles and techniques. We conclude that micro-projects which include strategic NGO partnerships; social-impact assessments; promote low-technology inputs; and provide local control of technology and profits have the best chance of local acceptance and long-term sustainability.
Key words: innovation, micro-projects, international development, NGOs, economic leakage, appropriate technology, rural development, sustainable development, social impact assessment, NGO partnerships.