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The evaluation of development NGOs has seldom considered their impact on social capital and local organisational learning. Deeply intertwined, both are key dimensions of the long-term impact of development interventions. Studies have highlighted the relative success of NGOs in poverty reduction, but have been critical of the sustainability of the benefits and of NGOs’ failure to strengthen institutions. This paper analyses the experience of a sustainable natural resources management project coordinated by CARE in Villa Serrano, Bolivia, between 1993 and 2000. The article compares the outcome of a traditional evaluation with that of an impact evaluation, which allows us to identify significant flaws. The article concludes by reflecting on the limitations of traditional intervention approaches and on the need to rethink the strategic role of NGOs.

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