| By A. Bebbington, D. Lewis, S. Batterbury, E. Olson and S. Siddiqi | Published in Journal of Development Studies, 43(4): 597-621 |

Abstract: The World Bank’s recent concern for ‘empowerment’ grows out of longer standing discussions of participation, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society. While commitments to empowerment enter World Bank texts with relative ease, their practice within Bank-funded projects is far more contingent, and the meanings they assume become much more diverse. This paper considers the relationship between such texts and the development practices which emerge, using an analysis of the ‘organisational cultures’ of the Bank and the many organisations on which it depends in the implementation of its rural development programmes. The paper presents a framework for analysing these organisational cultures in terms of (a) the broader contexts in which organisations and their staff are embedded; (b) the everyday practices within organisations; (c) the power relations within and among organisations; and (d) the meanings that come to dominate organisational practice. A case study of a development programme in Bangladesh is used to illustrate the ways in which cultural interactions between a variety of organisations – the World Bank, government agencies, NGOs, organisations of the poor, social enterprises – mediate the ways in which textual commitments to empowerment are translated into a range of diverse practices.