The two concepts ‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’ are frequently used in development projects in the third world. The meaning given to the concepts today signal a normative orientation, marking an alternative, people-centred approach to development. The concepts are demanding and detailed descriptions of what they mean are required in projects. The concepts also demand project implementers, often local NGOs contracted by donors, to possess certain values – commitment, solidarity, altruism. NGO staff need to have the right attitude to secure a normative meaning of the concepts also when they reach grassroots level.
Demanding Values explores the meaning ascribed to participation and empowerment. Particular focus is put on how local NGO staff relate to the values that participation and empowerment projects demand and expect them to possess. The study is based on field work in two development projects in Bangladesh. How do local staff and NGOs manage to secure that they possess the right values? How can we explain when they fail to do so? Using organisation theories, the relationship between organisational control and individual motivation is explored, contributing to our understanding of staff in normatively oriented organisations. The analysis also contributes to the debate concerning changing characteristics of local NGOs used as partners in development projects.