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The puzzle of debutant INGO participation in Guatemala’s National Reading Program Leamos Juntos: A comparative and multi-sited case study

The dynamics of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) working in Guatemala can be understood as processual, evolving with and being shaped by social and cultural events in Guatemala and around the world. Central to understanding these dynamics is NGOs’ historical relationship to the State, which has ranged from collaborative to homicidal. However, as the number and activity of NGOs increase globally and in Guatemala, specifically within the education sector, some scholars characterize them less by their opposition to the State and more by their provision of education and myriad affiliations with the State. The purpose of this dissertation is to situate and then analyze debutant INGO participation in a State-sponsored education program. This dissertation presents and then draws upon the conceptualization of NGOtenango in Guatemala, specifically exploring debutant INGO participation in the national reading program, a multi-stakeholder partnership for education (MSPE) called Leamos Juntos (Let’s Read Together). Then, this dissertation investigates factors that support and/or hinder debutant INGO participation along with strategies for increasing supportive factors and decreasing barriers to INGO participation. I employ a comparative and multi-sited case study approach with a focus on three debutant INGOs and three different public education departments in Guatemala. This case study suggests that there are specific supportive factors and barriers to debutant INGO participation in Leamos Juntos. The conclusions lay out a series of supportive factors and barriers for debutant INGO participation in Leamos Juntos along with strategies to reduce barriers and increase supportive factors. The findings highlight and show how different factors—specific to the INGOs, departments, schools, the Leamos Juntos program itself, existing challenges in the education system, and the phenomenon of NGOtenango—affect how participation takes shape. Furthermore, the ways in which debutant INGOs appropriate policy can affect how local schools engage in that policy. The findings also show how public education staff and INGO staff view participation and collaboration differently and, at times, at odds with each other. This case study provides granular detail of how debutant INGOs and public education staff navigate decision-making around INGO participation in Guatemala and provides guidance for practice and policy.