Working Paper

Ideas for Development: Reflecting Forwards

Published on 1 January 2004

Part 1 (1997)

If development means good change, questions arise about what is good, and what sorts of change matter. Answers can be personally defined and redefined. The changing words, meanings and concepts of development discourse both reflect and influence what is done. The realities of the powerful tend to dominate.

Drawing on experience with participatory approaches and methods which enable poor and marginalised people to express their realities, responsible well-being is proposed as a central concept for a development agenda. This links with capabilities and livelihoods, and is based on equity and sustainability as principles.

The primacy of personal actions and non-actions in development points to the need for a pedagogy for the non-oppressed. This includes self-critical awareness, thinking through the effects of actions, and enabling those with power and wealth to experience being better off with less. Others are invited and encouraged to reflect, improve on this analysis, and write their own agenda.

Part 2 (2004)

Since 1997, the polarisation of power and wealth in the world has become even more extreme. The personal dimension is central in mediating every big issue but continues to be relatively neglected. Words and concepts used in development have remained potent. Social capital and sustainable livelihoods have met needs in powerful organisations and have been widely adopted and influential.

Responsible well-being, pointing to individual agency, has languished at the same time as the scope for action and impact has been enhanced by growing interconnectedness. The methodologies proposed earlier are needed more than ever.

So are new lines of thinking: to complement rights of the poorer and weaker with obligations of the richer and more powerful, worldwide and between all levels; to recognise power and relationships as central issues; to integrate institutional and personal change; to ground pro-poor policies and practice in realism; to think for oneself and take responsibility; to choose words and identify priorities personally; and to seek guidance by reflecting on what a poor person would wish one to do.

Authors

Image of Robert Chambers
Robert Chambers

Research Associate

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Publication details

published by
IDS
authors
Chambers, R
journal
IDS Working Paper, issue 238
isbn
1 85864 848 3

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