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Development investigations focus on synergies of institutional cultures for policy and practice. International non-governmental organisations (INGOs) currently enjoy a privileged position as harbingers of world culture unity. While there is contestation on INGOs as monolithic entities, few studies delve into the voices of actors within INGOs to provide for a more pluralistic perspective. This paper separates the actors from their institution by examining their different socio-cultural takes that drive them. This emphasises that as projects and visions come and go, institutional actors draw on their own philosophy that does not necessarily mirror their institution’s stance. Here, the focus is on one of the most important current development initiatives – microfinance – revealing individual understandings of what is sustainability, the role of external actors, indicators of success, exit strategies, and ethical action. In spite of situating this in the microfinance area, what is revealed is that actors are motivated by their own constructed ideology, often alluding peripherally to the specifics of microfinance. This opens another avenue of enquiry as to why organisational ideologies and popular development visions such as microfinance take on such diversity of forms and outcomes. Contrary to the world culture unity model, such communication disjunctures can be useful in understanding diverse development outcomes.

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