How development happens: Safe and sustainable energy, community development projects, and implementation challenges in timor-leste

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This article describes how seed funding from one major Australian University, designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaborations among academics, led to the implementation of a safe and sustainable energy supply at a community development project in remote Timor-Leste. This article reflects on the process, the results, and insights developed during the project primarily from the point of view of the academics. A participatory process of co-design was virtually impossible to implement due to time and resource constraints that barely allowed genuine collaboration between academics. The consequent nurturing of a social relationship between partners across borders, which would have allowed a genuine process of co-design, was therefore not possible. Misunderstandings around the local context, tensions in understandings of timelines, and competing priorities all provided additional barriers to timely implementation of the development project. The final conclusion is that even with the best of intentions, if resource constraints do not allow the time and space to develop collaborative social relations and prioritize “process over product,” then genuine partnerships and participatory development have little chance of flourishing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-80
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Anthropological Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

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