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This paper presents a case study of a World Bank community-driven development (CDD) project implemented on agrarian reform settlements in Northeastern Brazil in partnership with the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). Critiques of community- driven development often focus on whether it is truly participatory and on common causes of project failure, such as elite capture, clientelism, and free riding. The paper uses a mixed methods approach, combining case studies of eight community-driven development subprojects, interviews with project beneficiaries, technicians, academics, and social movement leaders, and a census survey of six of the subproject-receiving communities. The paper finds that, although success in these subprojects was limited, agrarian settlement institutions and partnership with the Landless Workers’ Movement were essential for avoiding these common causes of project failure, making the project both more participatory and more effective. My findings imply a key element of community-driven development project success lies in building institutions that provide an avenue for addressing project problems and which limit the ability of elites to intervene.
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