American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting location:Philadelphia date:2-6 December 2009
Intercultural management issues have not received very much attention so far in the development literature. And yet, the repercussions of applying culturally ill-adapted management styles -- be it management of financial assets or of human resources -- may be major and negatively impact the results of otherwise well thought out development programs. The paradigm shift of the 1990s from top down to bottom up approaches in the development business brought with it a strong focus on identifying and supporting local initiatives through participatory methods. The limited impact on beneficiaries’ livelihoods of development programs designed through the application of participatory methods have been blamed on bad practice, an overemphasis on techniques, and ill defined or culturally inadapted concepts. Less research has gone into assessing the effectiveness and cultural appropriateness of particular management styles applied in the implementation phase of the development programs. This paper draws on five years of professional practice as an NGO professional designing and implementing economic development projects with West African farmers’ organisations. Its ethnographic data come from development projects funded by donors yet managed by the farmers’ organisations themselves. It demonstrates that there is an urgent need to broaden the traditional field of application of business anthropology so as to include development program management. In addition, it calls for a sensitization of donor agencies to the importance of culturally adapted management styles and principles in order to ensure development programs have an increased positive impact on the livelihoods of beneficiaries.