This paper asks the question of whether community developed projects initiated by outsiders, be they indigenous or expatriate, can result in a sense of ownership by the indigenous project partner. This study takes place in Thailand on the Thai-Burmese border with refugee populations from Burma. Three case studies overseen by indigenous and expatriate-run called Women's Education for Advancement and Empowerment (WEAVE) and analyzed. These case studies, ranging in topics from health to income generation and childhood development, are at three different stages of community awareness when the partnership with WEAVE begins. This study uses both lessons learned from the case studies and interviews with its indigenous project leaders as well as from designers and implementers of development projects to analyze the possibility of ownership in projects initiated by outside NGOs. The degree of ownership is assessed as it corresponds to the level of the level of independence of the beneficiaries from outside NGO assistance and the sense of control, commitment and vision that beneficiaries and project partners feel they have in overseeing the project.

The project partner's knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors concerning specific ownership indicators were assessed through structured interviews, participant observation, and two to four years project management experience of three case studies and their leadership. Indicators included the project partner's perception about the role of NGOs in the project and the desired level of independence from the NGO as well as the project partner's willingness to contribute the project in resources, time or funds in order to improve project implementation. Finally, the ability to outline long-term plans and a vision for the project was used to assess ownership of the underlying ideas and concepts.

The study outlined a framework that noted variables necessary in encouraging a sense of ownership in outside initiated projects. Education and awareness building by the NGO were key variables in encouraging ownership of the project idea which in turn results in ownership of the project itself and its future sustainability. The point of entry of an NGO into a community , and the best point of entry for monetary assistance in relation to the level of community awareness were among the recommendations made. The study concluded that ownership can develop in outside-initiated projects given that specific variables and conditions are met.