Representation by Development Organizations : Evidence From India and Implications for Inclusive Development

Katyaini, Suparana; Wessel, Margit van; Sahoo, Sarbeswar


This article focuses on development organizations’ construction of representative roles in their work at the environment–development interface and on implications of these constructions for inclusiveness. While much of the past literature on representation has dealt with electoral representation, this article highlights the importance of nonelectoral representation. It follows a constructivist approach and is based on 36 in-depth interviews with the staff of different types of India-based development organizations working on disaster risk management. The article shows how development organizations in India contribute to inclusive development by representing groups that are vulnerable to disaster risk in diverse ways. Showing this diversity and how it is mediated by organizations, the article makes clear that representation is much more complex than literature commonly suggests. This complexity enables organizations to engage with specific dimensions of inclusive development. The article also illustrates how representation by development organizations happens through opportunities found and created through the intertwining of capacity development, service delivery, and advocacy. At the same time, the mediated nature of representation, and its embeddedness in a wide set of relations, makes representation by development organizations indirect and questionable in ways beyond the commonly understood dominance of powerful nongovernmental organizations.