Despite the role that non-government organisations, including community development organisations, play in social transformation, their approach to managing projects has received little attention. Employing a processual approach and participatory methodology, this paper investigates how a small, distributed, community-based organisation negotiates the challenges associated with managing its geographically dispersed development projects. It examines lessons that this organisation’s project management approach offers for managing projects at a distance in ways that encourage community ownership, partnership with project beneficiaries and their maximum participation in the process. The paper underlines the need for positioning people’s participation in development projects as a key component of development, rather than as a tool for project implementation. It concludes by advocating a blend of participation and empowerment with technical assistance for recipient communities.