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Keywords:

  • sustainable development;
  • projects;
  • ethnography;
  • case studies

Abstract

This paper constitutes an attempt to find a means to represent multiple stories in the strong narrative of conventional sustainable development (SD) projects. The authors' experience of such projects in various parts of the world indicates that they have a tendency to arise from and reflect a dominant mindset, placing the SD project in what can be a working environment that is inimical to the very ideals that SD is supposed to represent. Short-termism and value for money drive project formats and objectives, whilst counter-narratives and alternative stories arising from stakeholders in such projects are often ignored. Yet these alternative threads often contain strong SD messages of their own and could, if effectively utilized, enhance the SD project process. This paper sets out the case for a new field – ‘project ethnography’ – allied with the growing use of meta-analysis to compare project ‘stories’. The analytical model applied to compare projects is based on the Kolb learning cycle and involves a (3 × 4)-fold questioning of project conceptualization and roll-out. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.