This article shares findings from a participatory assessment study of a community-based environmental monitoring project in the Peruvian Andes. The objective of the project was to generate evidence to support sustainable livelihoods through participatory knowledge generation. With the use of narrative framing, the study retrospectively reconstructs the project's trajectory as perceived by the three stakeholder groups: the community, the researchers, and the implementing NGO. This analysis reveals discrepancies between the stakeholder groups both in their view of the course of events and their understanding of the purpose of the intervention. However, while the storylines depict differing project trajectories, they often agree in terms of long-term goals. The study also uncovers some neglected positive externalities that are of considerable significance to local stakeholders. These include community-to-community knowledge transfer, inter-generational knowledge sharing and ecosystem knowledge revival. The article illustrates how assumptions and expectations about participatory projects are encapsulated in narratives of positive change despite the limited level of agreement among stakeholders about what such a change should comprise. It sheds light on development narratives and their power to shape stakeholders’ perceptions in accordance with their beliefs and priorities. This is of special importance for ecosystem governance projects, which are sensitive to normative differences and subject to competing claims.