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Making Locals: Recruitment and the Knowledge Market in International Aid Open Access

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For over a century in Somaliland, international interveners recruited clan elders to carry out aid activities. But over the past twenty years this longstanding routine changed. Now young, highly educated Somalilanders with transnational experience are put in charge, displacing their traditional predecessors. What accounts for such a dramatic change in international interveners’ recruitment? Why do they recruit a different set of local actors than they did in the past? The answer lies in a change in international interveners’ (donors and INGOs) evaluation criteria. In the past interveners valued traditional authority and opted to work through indigenous social systems. Now, in the quest to be more effective, they are prioritizing professional expertise above all else when they recruit local actors. But a curious result is that international interveners don’t always get what they want. Charged with making aid better, today’s evaluation criteria instead generate a logic to gaining resources that works against goals of professionalization. It creates a structural environment – the knowledge market –that empowers a new set of local actors (but not quite the way interveners intended) and generates new ways for local actors to identify, strategize, and behave. Evaluation criteria developed at the international level ultimately creates a new set of winners and losers and new patterns of behavior among local actors. As such, it is a powerful illustration of second-image reversed effects in international politics.Thus, my dissertation makes two main contributions. First, I explain that a new set of local actors receives resources in Somaliland because international interveners prioritize professional expertise above all else in recruitment. Second, I identify how recruitment not only does not go according to plan, but it also has a variety of social effects for the local actors seeking funding. As a result this dissertation contributes to academic scholarship on the behavior and power of INGOs in global governance. On a policy level it also questions the utility of evaluation criteria based on professional expertise. Intended to make aid better, the new criteria generates unintended effects that work against a number of the goals of professionalization.My argument is based on twelve months of fieldwork, relying on ethnographic methods of participant observation and extensive interviewing in the Horn of Africa, and content analysis of global data on international interveners’ evaluation criteria from 1998-2017.

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