Development Cooperation Handbook/Defining Development

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Defining Development
Originally the term "development". meant the movement from the possible to the factual. Something is developing when some of the attributes that were "in potency" become actual; what was a possibility becomes a fact. In the vision of the evolutionists, that imagined history was a constant progress towards more prosperous and more just societies, the term "development" connotated the happy news of technological advancement and political emancipation. But to peoples and communities whose life styles and creeds were being wrecked by changes imposed by outsiders, "development" connotated colonization, degradation and alienation.

Development as a choice[edit]

Unfortunately, development activities are often carried out with the presumption that our vision about development is universally valid. The result is a lack of understanding about others' perspectives on development that leads to low cooperation effectiveness or even cooperation failure. On the contrary' when cooperation dialogue is active' one of the most important benefits emerging from successful international cooperation projects, is the expansion of "people's outlook on development". So, a wider perspective enables a clearer vision and more respect for the opinions and contributions of others. So, a wider perspective of development enables cooperation and subsidiarity where earlier there was conflict and ignorance.

Although intellectually out-dated, the terms "development" and "growth" are still widely used as equivalent terms, especially by media. But gradually a new awareness is rising that growth which is not organic, spontaneous and balanced cannot be called “development”.

Harmonization of development drivers[edit]

Awareness is gradually growing that social and economic development requires a balanced mixture of freedom and order, of spontaneity and rule, of solidarity and competition. However, there is much disagreement on what should come first (freedom or order?) and where to set the balance (more spontaneity or more governance?).

Freedom and order are the two vital factors of development. On the one hand, they promote each other and on the other, they destroy each other especially if one of the two grows too much at the expense of the other.

A similar balance between two seemingly contradictory, and actually reciprocally enabling factors, is the synthesis, in development, of “change” and “continuation”.

In fact, development has a dynamic character implying simultaneously that something is transformed and that something is carried forward. When we talk of "development" in the human and social context, we refer to a course of action that integrates two processes: a change for the better and a preservation of a cultural identity and its value system. A social change that is implemented independently of the value system of the persons whose environment is changed, is not development. And neither, is the preservation of an old value system, independent of the aspirations of the new generations, development. Using another terminology, we could say that “development” is when there is synergy and creative communication between “progress” (moving ahead) and “tradition” (taking forward one’s values).

Social development is analogous to personal development; and behavioral change is analogous to the process of learning. Change and learning are not produced by social workers and by teachers; they are produced as responses of persons to external inputs they receive. Authentic development aid workers, in the same way as authentic educators, will aim at “empowering” persons and help them develop their potentialities. (see ⇒ Development assistance as social education).


The central thesis of this Handbook is that that development happens spontaneously, once the factors causing poverty and suffering are reduced: the removal of these factors requires participated governance that is based on dialogue and cooperation.

See also[edit]

Issues icon.jpg Issue 5 ⇒ Do developed and developing nations agree on the road map for global development?

Script.pngWiki threads between definitions and openness

Ezra Cornell's first book.jpg in other sections of this handbook

Development Cooperation Stories :
Clannad After Story Episode Icon.pngA contagious joy transmitting health to children - The Ramakrishna Mission at Varanasi
Clannad After Story Episode Icon.pngResponsible Development - Varanasi

600X WIKIPEDIA LOGO.svg on Wikipedia

Testimonials[edit]

If the economy does not grow we will be depressed; if it grows we will be destroyed - Sadhguru



What can and what cannot grow - Development Education Conference



What are the linkages between economic prosperity and the improvement of the life of the people? - S.Kumar
Growth is a means - Human development is the aim - J.Drèze
Reflections on the interview with Mukti Datta - Those who really work for development they care about conservation - Film-Camera.pngplaylist

Other Resources[edit]

The concept of “human development” (HD) was developed in the late 80s, by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in order to overcome and expand the traditional meaning of development focused only on economic growth. This different approach reflects an old tension within international organizations, including those which focus their attention primarily on economic growth, identifying it as development and those who are mainly interested in the aspects and the social consequences of development itself.

The HD approach puts people at the heart of development and rests on the belief that the human dimension of development has been neglected in the past due to excessive emphasis placed on economic growth. Examples of this emphasis are the measure of GNP per capita, used as the primary measure of levels of development among states, and variables such as income or consumption calculated in monetary terms as a measure of wealth or poverty of individuals, families and different social groups.

“Human development is the process of enlarging people's choices. Income is certainly one of these choices, but it does not represent the sum total of human experiences. Health, education, a healthy environment, the freedom of action and expression are also important.”
Human Development Reports