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In 2007 Jeffrey Engels began his doctorate in Development Studies at the University of Melbourne.  Development  Studies is one of the fastest growing programs in Australia. As a discipline, it critically engages with key development concerns such as debt and poverty, culture and human rights, gender relations, food and environmental security, globalization and national sovereignty, the role of civil society organizations, HIV/AIDS and health systems, and migration and trans-nationalism. A major aim of the University of Melbourne program is to provide an interdiscplinary perspective grounded in theory and best practice. Jeffrey's dissertation focused on aid project strategies that result in aid effectiveness and sustainable development. Jeffrey received his Ph.D. in 2010.


Foreign aid exit strategies that contribute to sustainable develoment have been rarely considered throughout the history of development studies and practice. The philosophical underpinnings of early development were based on economic theories. Over the years development initiatives have manifested themselves by investments through international aid projects. As aid projects are donor-driven, most exit strategy planning involves closing down a project without turning it over to another organization to continue implementation. This means that aid benefits end with whatever impact the project has achieved, leaving ill equipped local ministries or under-resourced NGOs to meet local development needs and fill the gap of terminated services.

The project cycle--a popular development tool used by multinational and bilateral organizations alike--provides a framework to induce development, but makes no accommodation for an exit strategy that perpetuates development. This is a missed opportunity that reveals a flaw in the project cycle. This flaw can be corrected by revising the project cycle implementation stage to include building capacity of people to perform the functions the project was designed for, as well as a local implementing entity through which they can work. Once accomplished, a sponsor can transfer project activities and resources to the local implementing entity through a phase-over process to extend development post-project for ongoing impact.

The aim of this dissertation is to promote greater understanding of exit strategies and analyze an aspect of project management essential to foreign aid projects since every project must eventually end its interventions upon completion of its goals or within  prescribed financial and time constraints. What are the conditions necessary to complete a foreign aid project phase-over to a local institution successfully? How can in-country local project staff contribute to institution-building before, during, and after a phase-over? What are the appropriate ways to measure the success of a phase-over?

This dissertation examines the concept of exit strategy within the context of a case study of the United States Department of Agriculture's Marketing Assistance Project (USDA-MAP) in Armenia (1995-2005) and the innovative phase-over approach it used to establish the Center for Agribusiness & Rural Development (CARD). The USDA's exit strategy incorporated collective participation, empowered local stakeholders, promoted development ownership through localization, and built individual and institutional capacity.  The resulting organization that was created is evidence of a successful phase-over and an innovative institution.  This phase-over model offers a paradigm that embraces and promotes social assets within aid projects for sustainable development and in so doing has ramifications for policy makers, project deisigners, and development practitioners to rethink conventional development practices.

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