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Transacting Transition

Evaluating Intervention

From Idea To Impact

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Since the project began in 2001, the field of research on the phenomenon of democracy promotion has broadened considerably. In that same process, the inter-relationship of different dimensions of democracy promotion has been made clearer, and the field has developed sub-specializations.

Having set out with the idea of studying the whole, complex field, the central project researchers have focused on the particular issue of international attempts to nurture and strengthen civil society. Even within this narrow slice of the whole spectrum of democracy-building - which also includes support for elections, political parties, governmental reform, rule of law, independent media, labor unions, decentralization, and other elements of what Thomas Carothers has dubbed "the democracy template"- substantially different approaches exist.

Research conducted by personnel associated with the project, and accessible through this section of the site, aims to:
• Describe and analyze encounters between international and domestic actors in regions going through political, economic and social transition
• Contribute to understanding connections between the democracy promotion enterprise and other transnational flows of ideas, people and resources
• Explore new research methods that combine scholarly rigor with policy relevance
• Foster dialogue between different knowledge-communities, including academics, practitioners and citizens of different countries, concerned with the present and future of democratic governance.

One key methodology we have been using is critical oral history. This draws on work by James Blight and Janet Lang, whose approach seeks to capture and distill the special knowledge of participants in historical events by bringing together scholars, decision-makers and documents in dialogue. This triangulation of perspectives - which they have used in a number of studies on Cold War history - yields new understandings of the past, often reviving forgotten or overlooked perspectives that hold the promise of educating future practitioners and analysts.

The approach of critical oral history was one source of inspiration for our 2006 edited volume, Transacting Transition: The Micropolitics of Democracy Assistance in the Former Yugoslavia. The same approach informs the two initiatives launched in 2006-7, under the rubric of “Evaluating Intervention.” Other products, including occasional papers and teaching syllabi, can be found under other products.