Vexations, volumes, and volunteers: institutionalization and the veneration of information at a small international NGO
Letalien, Bethany Lynn
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The author performed action research over the two years between March 2006 and February 2008 with the Instituto Dois Irmãos (i2i), a non-governmental organization (NGO) in a low-income area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil consisting of a group of approximately 3-5 locals and 2-30 foreigners at any one time that in March 2006 offered few services and lacked the expertise or confidence to offer more. Together, participants and the author improved and increased the NGO’s services and implemented a reading room – a place of information and literacy – for Portuguese-speaking students of English. This dissertation describes participants’, the organization’s, and the author’s journey to transform the i2i into a better functioning organization and to create the NGO’s reading room. The analysis focuses on the practical learning that took place within the i2i. Throughout the research process, the author both made use of and questioned the concepts of participation and development. In the text, she also draws on the experiences of the i2i’s leaders and volunteers to question the prevailing notion of information as a social good. A critical understanding of these three notions is essential for the work of librarians, development professionals, and policymakers alike.