Community development and capacity building: A case study of Monte Verde, Costa Rica

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Community development, Costa Rica, Tourism, Latin America, Conservation, Capacity building

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Costa Rica is widely regarded for its accomplishments in natural resource conservation, pacifism and egalitarian social promotion. The country has dedicated a sizeable portion of its forested environments to reserves, abolished its army and put in place constitutional prohibitions against armed conflict and has achieved educational, economic and life expectancy rates approaching those of far wealthier nations. This dissertation presents a case study of one of the country's more well-known communities - Monte Verde - and the efforts of area residents to achieve and maintain a desired quality of life when confronted with economic, social and environmental pressures associated with the growth of land conservation efforts and resulting increase in ecotourism. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, through the efforts of numerous community organizations and establishment of a plan for community development referred to as Monteverde 2020, the community undertook a strategy to define and achieve community goals for the year 2020. This dissertation documents those goals, the pressures facing the community that led to their declaration and the resultant effort to achieve them. The experiences of Monteverde 2020, accomplishments as well as limitations, provide insight into the goals and challenges associated with community development. Consistent with recently emerging theories, the history of Monte Verde and the work of Monteverde 2020 suggest that community development is a process of enhancing community capability rather than a pursuit of specific outcomes.


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