Implicit bias and administrative burden – How Global North and Global South development actors’ perceptions differ in challenges to “localization.”

Authors: Erin McGuire*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Development, Ethnicity and Race, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Localization, development, implicit bias, organizational change
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The global aid community has spent vast resources to alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of the world’s most disadvantaged people. Despite these efforts and decades of investment, 700 million people are living on less than $1.90 a day, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 3 children will experience stunted growth (World Bank, 2019). Many actors within the global aid community have begun to call for a paradigm change, moving leadership from powerful, centralized implementers, to more de-centralized, local-led development strategies. While there are many challenges to local-led implementation, there are potentially significant positive outcomes, including increased local agency, more effective solutions and movements, lasting change, and overall dynamic network resiliency.

This research explores different decentralization models of a large International Non-Government Organization, CARE International. Each model differs in its approach to localization and the level of decentralization. Using structured interviews and a survey, this research pays particular attention to how development staff from the Global North (often management, focusing on strategy and resource allocation) and Global South (often field staff, focusing on implementation) perceive challenges to localization. Results show that there is a difference in how the two sub-groups perceive challenges to and the importance of shifting power to local entities. We take the results and put them into a framework to best understand decentralizing models that empower Global South actors from their perspective, and analyze trade-offs from the Global North perspective.

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