International Aid Workers and their national colleagues:brokers, ambiguities and shared spheres
Kathrin Knodel (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on two main aspects of aid work: How can the working environment of aid be characterized? What are its specificities? And how can the relationship between international aid workers and their national colleagues be described? In which way do their spheres overlap or differ?
Paper long abstract:
Much has been said about the politics, intentions and assessment of different development programs. But how can we best describe the working environment of aid itself? A more actor-centered perspective on those people actually employed in the field enables us to show some specificities of this context. Interestingly enough there are considerable similarities between aid workers and academics from the perspective of business and organizational anthropology: project-related employment, need for creativity, spontaneity, flexibility. One relevant aspect is the relationship between international aid workers and their national colleagues. Both can be regarded as brokers (Bierschenk et al. 2002; Mosse and Lewis 2006). This role as someone between different societies and institutions makes it difficult for others to classify the actors or to judge on them. Manifold are the roles they take and that are attributed to them - ranging from representatives or allies to guides. A certain ambiguity rests. They also assemble many different structures such as governments, institutions and partners (Koster and van Leynseele 2018). And concerning their motivation and lifestyle they are often a quite mixed bag of people (Fechter 2011). Among the differences between these two groups the unequal power relations and allocation of knowledge and resources might be the most striking. Nonetheless, the bottom up approach in development over the last years has had a remarkable impact on the local level: it led to an enormous professionalization on the one hand and entrepreneurial ambitions on the other hand.
International intervention professionals - aid workers on the move