“Success stories” as an evidence form: Organizational legitimization in an international technology assistance project Cover Image
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“Success stories” as an evidence form: Organizational legitimization in an international technology assistance project
“Success stories” as an evidence form: Organizational legitimization in an international technology assistance project

Author(s): James M. Nyce, Cheryl Klimaszewski, Gail E. Bader
Subject(s): Social Sciences
Published by: Muzeul Ţăranului Român, Editura Martor
Keywords: development; information technology; metrics; NGOs; libraries

Summary/Abstract: This paper looks at how evidence and success were constructed in Biblionet - Global Libraries Romania, an NGO-led, technology-based project in Romania. The main focus of Biblionet is to provide public access to computers and the internet in public libraries throughout Romania. Here, we discuss how project staff relied on one particular set of measures to legitimatize, validate and "sell" their project to audiences in Romania and in the West. This NGO tended to "demonstrate" success using relatively weak measures. Perhaps the most suspect of these were, paradoxically, appeals to" science," that is to say, "hard" numbers and and one-time, one-off inspirational "success stories" that would play well in popular media. Our research on the Biblionet program in Salaj County, Romania identified trends in information, technology, and library use which either fell outside of or were not captured by the NGO's quantitative metrics. This is despite the fact that these trends seemed to indicate a greater potential for this project's long-term success than the ones the NGO itself employed. This raises a number of issues that neither the anthropology of development nor the anthropology of science have taken seriously. In particular, this paper suggests that the role lay or folk notions of empiricism and "success" play in the legitimization and evaluation of NGO efforts requires more attention than it has received in the literature so far.

  • Issue Year: 2011
  • Issue No: 16
  • Page Range: 171-183
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: English