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The social life of pilot projects: Insights from REDD+ in Tanzania

Massarella, Kate (2018) The social life of pilot projects: Insights from REDD+ in Tanzania. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Pilot projects are used as tools to test new solutions to global environment and development concerns including climate change and natural resource management. They are framed as mechanisms that provide evidence of ‘what works’ in order to improve policy and practice. However, despite the widespread use of pilot projects, their dynamics, impacts and implications are not well studied. Drawing on political ecology, social anthropology, science and technology studies, social justice theory, and policy studies literature, this thesis critically explores the phenomenon of pilot projects using a case study of REDD+ in Tanzania. An interpretivist-constructivist, actor-based approach to research is taken, using ethnographic data that includes over 150 narrative interviews with conservation and development professionals and actors involved in district and village-level pilot projects. Findings are presented in three analytical chapters. The first unpacks the relationship between pilot projects, policy and practice. A contradiction is identified between the design of the pilot projects as experimental and outside of the constraints of existing institutions, and the ability of the projects to have meaningful, longer-term influence. The second analytical chapter explores the complex dynamics and implications of expectations in pilot projects, identifying a trade-off between fully piloting new initiatives and raising expectations. The final analytical chapter uses a recognition justice lens to explore pilot project evaluations, finding that the ways of knowing, values and perspectives of some actors are discursively reproduced through the process, excluding and delegitimizing alternative perspectives. These results contribute to critical debates on international environment and development policy and practice by arguing that rather than delivering innovation and learning, pilot projects reproduce and reinforce the status quo. As such, this thesis reconceptualises pilot projects as agents of social change that cannot be contained within project objectives and timelines. This has significant implications for the continued use of pilot projects and raises questions about responsibility and accountability for their outcomes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Environment (York)
Depositing User: Dr Kate Massarella
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2019 10:33
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2019 10:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22472

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