The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason (Paperback)
In The Good Project, Monika Krause dives into the intricacies of the decision-making process at NGOs and uncovers a basic truth: It may be the case that relief agencies try to help people but, in practical terms, the main focus of their work is to produce projects. Agencies sell projects to key institutional donors, and in the process the project and its beneficiaries become commodities. In an effort to guarantee a successful project, organizations are incentivized to help those who are easy to help, while those who are hardest to help often receive no assistance at all. The poorest of the world are made to compete against each other to become projects—and in exchange they offer legitimacy to aid agencies and donor governments. Sure to be controversial, The Good Project offers a provocative new perspective on how NGOs succeed and fail on a local and global level.
Monika Krause is associate professor in sociology at the London School of Economics. She is the author of The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason and coauthor or coeditor of Social Theory Now, both also published by the University of Chicago Press. She is the winner of the 2019 Lewis A. Coser Award for Theoretical Agenda Setting in Sociology.
— Michael Barnett
“This is an urgently important book. It explains how humanitarian organizations work, do their work, and why that work succeeds or fails. It also offers fresh insights into the rationality of bureaucracies—an analysis in depth written in clear, evocative prose.”
— Richard Sennett
“Krause’s The Good Project is a powerfully original analysis of humanitarian relief organizations like MSF and the ICRC. Observing closely the practical logic through which these NGOs manage their activities, Krause addresses crucial questions: How do NGOs assess what is a ‘good’ project? Why are some beneficiaries more worthy of help than others? How do relief organizations decide where they should work? How do these organizations position themselves in the field of humanitarian relief as a whole? Even as Krause shows how NGOs compete in a market for projects, with beneficiaries served as the commodity for which funders pay, she creates a vivid picture of the complex humanity–and the strategic interactions–of both NGO staff and the refugees and victims they serve. Poignant and funny in places, the book is a great piece of original sociological theorizing.”
— Ann Swidler, author of Talk of Love: How Culture Matters
“The Good Project fills a gap in the humanitarian NGO literature by exploring how these organizations actually do their work. . . . Recommended.”
“Can yet another critique of the aid business contribute anything new? Krause has done so. . . . Krause has written an excellent, wide-ranging, and cogent contribution to the debate on humanitarian practice.”
— European Journal of Sociology
“With this theoretically ambitious and empirically rich account of the practices of humanitarian relief organizations, The Good Project makes a powerful case for focusing on relief organizations themselves rather than assuming that they function as vehicles for the ideals and interests of either donors or states.”
— Social Forces