This paper presents a model of development action synthesising the development arena framework with collective action theory. It shows how application of this model in the Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) water supply improvement and capacity building project in Tenganan, Indonesia has helped to maximise the extent to which the project practice can reflect the project rhetoric as “bottom-up” or community-inspired. The model posits a broad range of stakeholders actively engaged in development action: each stakeholder is different, with its own interests, missions, procedures, and ways of deploying power in development action. Recognising the multiplicity of subjects of development is especially crucial for improving bottom-up practice. Connections and interactions among stakeholders are inherently problematic, and must be negotiated to accomplish development work, as tensions in the dynamic among stakeholders may operate to restrict the success of these “bottom-up” development projects.

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