Development Cooperation Handbook/Defining Development

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 is a concept that sometimes facilitates consensus and other times polarizes divergence

Development as a choice

title=Development as choice

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".

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

Development as balance

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. 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 creative responses by free persons responding to the communication 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


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

 The Sustainable Development Goals

 Wiki threads between definitions and openness

  in other sections of this handbook

Development Cooperation Stories :
 A contagious joy transmitting health to children - The Ramakrishna Mission at Varanasi
 Responsible Development - Varanasi

  on Wikipedia


Growth is a means - Human development is the aim - J.Drèze

Jean Drèze, Development economist, Allahabad, India 23rd February 2011


"Growth is a means, is not an end in itself or thought sometimes there is the tendency to start to treat it as an ends in itself. And people and the human development is the ends, even though there is a tendency, as you said, sometimes to treating it also as a mean, rather than as ends. Now it is true that human resources can also be a means and…we learned a lot of useful things in development economics about the importance of human resources for growth, and not just for growth for development in generally, and in particular about the role of education, whether you talk of growth, whether you talk of improvement of health or public participation in democracy, for all these things education is very important, so these human resources have an important instrumental role.

But I think, what is more important than that is to think of them as ends of development and to think of them as wellbeing of people and also as rights of people. You know, in India we have very clear road map, in the form of the Constitution, which is very progressive in many aspects and clarifies, without any doubt, that every citizen has basic rights to education, to health, even to employment, to living with dignity, and we have to, I think, keeping view these are as the ends of development. That is not to deny that growth can be important, and you pointed out that growth generates (?)also can be used, in particular trough welfare functioning public services, to improve people’s health, education and nutrition and so on. So growth can be important, but it is a means and the ultimate objective is people wellbeing and people’s rights, as (spelt) out in this case, I would say, to a large extent in the Constitution. "

Growth centrality when it becomes a means for the power game amongst Nations J.Drèze

I would also say growth, as I said, it is an important means, but it can also be quite problematic, particularly in environment’s consequences, I think it has to be looked out. In India this is now a very big issue, because the past 10/20 years have been extremely destructive, in terms of environmental consequences. Very rapid growth of inequality and creation of life style (for humanity) of the population, which I think are becoming increasing difficult to replicate for everyone else, without further pressure on the environment and all the public resources. So, you know, there are a lot of questions that have to be addressed, without denying that growth can be an important instrument for transforming the life of people. So I think these priority have to be clear and there is a very serious confusion, at this time, about the growth being an important thing in itself, and you know, if you ask why is the Indian elite so obsessed with growth, why, as you said, it is becoming a kind of overriding object in itself and there is the tendency to view anything that stand in the way of growth as an irritation that has to be done away (within) something or the other, whether is the environment, whether is equity or anything. I think the obsession with growth is not so much this believe in the trickle down, what you has describe as the idea that people will follow. It is not so much the trickle down theory, part of the trickle down theory, but I think it is also a last (four) power in the world and for becoming a big power on the world stage. And I think that is where growth become very important in the mind set of the Indian…and rightly so, if you really aspire to become a so called civil power on the world stage, than obviously you will have to become a much richer Country and it will take a lot of economic growth.

Jaggi Vasudev (also also known as Sadhguru सदगुरु जग्गी वासुदेव - சத்குரு ஜக்கி வாசுதேவ்) is a yogi and the founder of the Isha Foundation. He was interviewed in Coimbatore in the last week of February 2011 by Fausto Aarya De Santis

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

See also  Green Hands - Coimbatore (7) -  playlist

What is "growth" - Development Education Conference

What can and what cannot grow - Development Education Conference

Other Resources


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

What are the linkages between economic prosperity and the improvement of the life of the people? - S.Kumar

Reflections on the interview with Mukti Datta - Those who really work for development care about conservation -  playlist