•We identify a trade-off between fully piloting REDD+ and raising expectations.•Initial expectations are performative and enrol actors into ‘communities of promise’.•Expectations are socially mediated and dynamic and are hard to manage once raised.•Unfulfilled expectations impact villagers most, raising issues of accountability.•Our findings challenge the discourse of ‘needing’ to implement pilot projects.
World Development – Elsevier
Published: Sep 1, 2018
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