Provocations for Development

Published on 17 April 2012

You can purchase this book here.

Do we use obscure words to impress our colleagues – or fashionable ones to win research proposals? How do poor people define their poverty? How can we use aid budgets most effectively? Are many of our actions against poverty simple, direct… and wrong?

Provocations for Development is an entertaining and unsettling collection of writings that questions concepts, conventions and practices in development. It is made up of short and accessible writings by Robert Chambers, many from the past ten years and some from earlier, reflecting on the evolution of concepts like participation and of organizations like the World Bank. Besides provocations, there is mischief, verse and serious fun.

The book is organized into four sections. The first, Word Play, irreverently examines vocabularies of development and how words are instruments of power. The second Poverty and Participation challenges concepts of poverty, presents empowering breakthroughs in the current explosion of participatory methodologies, and concludes with what can be done at the personal level.

The third, Aid, is critical of past and present procedures and practices in aid and points to feasible changes for doing better. The provocations in the last section For our Future touch on values, ethics, gender and participation, immersions, hypocrisy, and paradigms, and sees hope in children. The final provocation invites readers to find answers to the question ‘what would it take to eliminate poverty in the world?’ Provocations for Development will be enjoyed by development professionals, including academics, students, NGO workers and the staff of international agencies, as well as the wider public.


Robert Chambers

Research Associate

Publication details

Chambers, R.
978 1 85339 733 2


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