Islands of success. How to make development projects work in challenging contexts.
Research Project , 2017 – 2020

The purpose of this project is twofold: First, we will study how contexts characterized by poor institutions (in which corruption and clientelismare prevalent) pose challenges for development projects. Second, we will identify viable strategies for institution-building within development projects implemented in such contexts. There is urgent need to address the current knowledge gap in how to build good institutions in difficult contexts, in order to achieve development goals. We pay particular attention to the role of local participation as development strategy. It is commonly argued that projects should adopt an approach of local influence and ownership in order to be successful and produce lasting outcomes. However, scattered evidence suggests that in contexts of corruption and clientelism, participation tends to benefit primarily local elites and capture is common. This project suggests that in order to harness the promise of local participation, democratic participation should play a role in the input, decision-making side of the project. When it comes to implementation, the focus should be on impartiality in implementing and enforcing the rules of the organisation. In this four-year project, we will study four strategically selected cases of community electrification in Tanzania. In addition to a substantial number of interviews, we analyse project documentation, make observations in the field and organise group discussions for validating findings.


Madelene Ostwald (contact)

Gästforskare vid Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Helene Ahlborg

Forskare vid Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Frida Boräng

vid Unknown organization

Bo Rothstein

vid Unknown organization


Swedish Research Council (VR)

Funding Chalmers participation during 2017–2020

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