Value Clashes, Power Competition and Community Trust: Why an NGO's Earthquake Recovery Program Faltered in Rural China
The Version of Record, after refereeing, has been published in the Journal of Peasant Studies, 22 January 2020 DOI 10.1080/03066150.2019.1690470
34 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2020
Date Written: December 3, 2018
NGOs in China cannot operate successfully and achieve their goals if they lose the trust of the community they seek to serve. In the wake of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, an environmental NGO lost the support of villagers and grassroots leaders partly because of poor communication and limited responsiveness to community concerns. But better downward accountability would only have exposed a deeper mismatch in goals and aspirations. Villagers and village cadres did not want what the NGO had on offer and the NGO, as a value-driven organization, was handcuffed by its mission. This article examines tensions over home reconstruction, organic agriculture, eco-tourism, self-governance, embroidery workshops and local elite displacement to highlight the importance of trust and value clashes when studying how a rural collaboration with an NGO can collapse. It is also a cautionary tale about community power. Villagers and grassroots cadres had the ability to thwart an NGO and drive it out, but theirs was the power to frustrate and block, not to make their dreams of development real.
Keywords: trust, peasants, disaster recovery, downward accountability, organizational mission
JEL Classification: Q54,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation