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Biography & Abstract
Léna Prouchet

Léna is a PhD Candidate at the University of Exeter and focuses on multi-stakeholder partnerships for local development and forest preservation. Her project is a collaboration with the NGO ‘Cool Earth’. She focuses on Cool Earth’s work in Peru with the Awajun community around the growing and marketing of cacao.

"This place is a cemetery of projects!” - how constrained conceptions of entrepreneurship prevent learning from failure within development projects.

This paper investigates the persistence through time of development projects promoting entrepreneurship among indigenous communities despite widespread criticism concerning their failure to achieve established objectives and their tendency to impose a Western-centric vision of entrepreneurship. We propose that existing research often overlooks the perceptions of failure held by development practitioners, which significantly influences project continuation. We performed ethnographic research and spent four months in the Peruvian Amazon, an area which has been qualified as a "cemetery of projects”. Employing a grounded theory approach complemented by critical discourse analysis, we explore the perceptions of project implementors regarding project failures. Our findings reveal three dominant discourses employed by implementors to justify failure and perpetuate existing practices: framing failures as inevitable in processes of radical transformations, reinterpreting small successes as the beginning of the diffusion of entrepreneurial innovation, and attributing failure to a lack of local entrepreneurial spirit. We further discuss how these discourses perpetuate a neocolonial paradigm of entrepreneurship and development. We advocate for a paradigm shift towards projects that genuinely enable indigenous self-determined development.

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