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Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and Norms of Participation in Tanzania: Working against the Grain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2013


The “institutional turn” in contemporary development theory has emphasized the importance of facilitating the emergence of institutions that will improve citizens' abilities to make choices. More important, it has suggested that the effectiveness of these institutions depends upon their ability to “work with the grain” of the local sociocultural environment. This article argues that community-based organizations (CBOs), as one prominent embodiment of institutional blueprints guiding relationships between state and nonstate actors in development efforts, are a poor fit in the context of contemporary urban Tanzania. This is because they are not consonant with the norms that have long governed popular participation in either the development process or associational life. Although the specific conclusions are limited to Dar es Salaam, the study calls for a method of interrogation that is not only historically and sociologically grounded, but also broadly applicable to other development issues.



Le “tournant institutionnel” dans la théorie du développement contemporain a mis l'emphase sur l'importance de faciliter l'émergence d'institutions qui amélioreront la capacité des citoyens à faire des choix. En outre, il a été suggéré que l'efncacité de ces institutions dépendent de leur habilité à travailler “dans la veine” de l'environnement local socioculturel. Cet article propose que les organisations communautaires (CBOs), posées comme modèle pour guider les relations entre les acteurs du développement relevant ou non du gouvernement, ne sont pas un guide approprié dans le contexte de la Tanzanie urbaine moderne. Ceci vient du fait qu'elles ne fonctionnement pas en accord avec les normes régissant la participation du peuple que ce soit dans le processus de développement ou la vie associative. Bien que mes conclusions soient spécifiques à la situation de Dar El Salaam, cette étude pose les bases d'une méthode de questionnement qui est non seulement fondée de manière historique et sociologique, mais aussi applicable de façon génerale à d'autres questions de développement.

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