Session 4 : Aid

In the world of development, Aid is a means to an end. It is the main channel of support for development and reconstruction which the West gives to the ‘rest’. It appears in different names and with various conditions, loans, grants, budgetary support, to mention a few but the foremost purpose is to bridge the poverty/inequality gap in the world.

Disbursement of aid has survived the past five decades, and like the development theories, has seen different phases in this 50year period, but the question we need to ask ourselves is, how effective is aid? Is it the only channel to the way forward? Has the poverty/inequality gap been bridged, has it solved developmental problems by influencing the economic growth of poor countries?  What is the world’s response to aid? A quick glance at the ‘aid business’ shows that it is currently at a stage where its effectiveness is the major topic of discussion. A seemingly divided front here, where some are of the view that aid has served a good purpose, others strongly address the ineffectiveness of it.

According to the USAid, countries like South Korea, Costa Rica and Chile, have been transformed to the level where they no longer rely on aid, they have grown their way out of poverty with the help of foreign aid but not solely on foreign aid. Structures that help development in this way include strong institutions, human capital and private sector development (Shah 2011). Lack of these structures results in the total ineffectiveness of aid as seen in Africa. Systems for disbursements and monitoring of aid are not effective, resulting in aid not serving the targeted purpose. As Andrew Mwenda rightly summarise it, “Development aid equips African rulers with easy money….” (Global Philanthropy)Easy money becomes misused money which most often than not, cannot be fully accounted for.  Has aid reached its target then? No! Diversions in the aid process, due to lack of proper structures, has left millions still struggling at the bottom line.

It is indeed sad, considering the amount of money pumped as aid to poor countries, with little to show in achievements. Is the aid business being done right? On a global scale data shows that aid has failed in reducing poverty and increasing economic growth but does global measurement of aid present a true picture to the world? I am of the opinion that in many ways aid has to some extent been effective on various platforms, that is aid with the focus on humanitarian needs, bringing health, education and clean water and sanitation (general improvement in lifestyle) to remote communities especially through the work of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other development channels. It is true that millions are still languishing in extreme poverty, and one would expect that with the amount of money pumped into foreign aid a fairer world should have been created by now, this sends signals that if results/improvements are not being seen on a large scale, something is not adding up.

As in the case of development theories, it is obvious here that the grand theories approach to studying the effectiveness of aid  creates a rather blurred image to the world, post development theorists approach at looking at context specifics  will create a better image of the effectiveness of aid, not that I disagree that aid has been ineffective, true, in that the main  purpose for its disbursement has not been fulfilled, but in other ways, depending on the name it bears at the time of disbursement, it can be said to have been effective.

Aid and its effectiveness is complex and have generated many arguments, it involves different stakeholders and charts different courses in its bid to reach its target, but current world concern is the approaches to aid and their effectiveness.  One such trajectory was  the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) a set of goals by the United Nations to be achieved by 2015 aimed at poverty reduction and basic human needs development. These MDGs ushered in a new phase of developmental achievement, they were more goal oriented, advocating for accountability, measurability and responsibility for global development. One would hope that with this new strategy the global scene of poverty and inequality was going to change drastically, but were the MDGs over ambitious? The current levels of poverty and inequality leaves much to be desired. With four years to go it is worth looking at various stakeholder responses to the MDGs. Aid recipients (Africa) needs more aid (what happened to all that previous aid?) in the midst of the struggle to meet terms and conditions of the fulfilment of MDGs, thus a call to donors to increase aid and stick to their commitment. Donors are now calling for transparency and accountability from both donor and recipient countries, institutions and organisations while development historians/ critics are certain that the whole aid process needs rethinking. ‘For aid to be effective in the future, the aid apparatus (in terms of how aid should be delivered, to whom, in what form and under what condition) will have to be rethought. (Global Philanthropy, 2006). Is this a call to a new era in aid and development? This call for change can be heard from all directions, business men/entrepreneurs (Bill Gates (Creative Capitalism), Richard Branson (Enlightened Capitalism) organisations, development theorists, both donor and recipient countries, ordinary people on the street and through the voice of that poor child crying to the world for help to have access to basic human needs. What is the answer to this call? Is it the next big thing?

It is also worth mentioning the evolving nature of development approaches. Has the MDGs worked in isolation of other development approaches? It is worth noting the interconnectivity in the strands of development approaches. Looking at the MDGs through the lenses of development theories, it can be concluded that they align best with the modernisation theories and still bear some semblance with dependency theories in achieving these goals, neoliberals however cannot feature much here, these goals cannot be achieved solely on their policies. The general outcome is that all these policies fall short at achieving the targets set for poverty reduction and creation of a fairer world. The world is awaiting a new approach to tackle developmental challenges; will it be a completely new approach or another evolution from previous strategies?

It is interesting how this study on aid exposes the layman to the scope of aid. Prior to this unit, my knowledge of aid was limited to NGO’s and Bilateral and Multilateral relations between governments and of course some relief and humanitarian assistance. Delving into this topic has indeed broadened my knowledge of aid and its complexities and the different responses to aid. The ‘rest’ needs help but aid has to be rightly channelled to be effective. Millions of people still lack basic human needs, and with world population reaching 7 billion and over, the world has to work fast at reducing poverty and inequality levels. With this sense of agency building up one gets the feeling that both and development are struggling to make the necessary impact. It is both sad and thought provoking to see so much money channelled to poor countries, only for it to be misappropriated and not reach its intended target or serve its specified purpose, thought provoking because you begin to wonder whether the West has got this aid business all wrong in some places and what is preventing poor countries (Africa) from achieving the objectives of aid.

Like the development theories, aid is also evolving, the current state of aid needs rethinking in every aspect from aid commitment, to disbursement, to recipients and to aid workers on the ground, if aid is to be effective then aid processes have to be restructured to  yield measurable and better results. Do aid organisations need to work together? Some level of agreement among donors can increase aid effectiveness. Recipient countries also have a part to play in bringing up their systems and structures to make this work, and in short every stakeholder has a part to play to turn the current era of aid round. The role of the aid worker becomes relevant in this scenario then, every aid worker is crucial in implementation of the aid, and for aid to be effective a lot is required of the aid worker on the ground. At this point I think of what I would do differently when eventually I enter into the world of development and aid. I lean more on Easterly’s argument that aid workers need to be specialists and not generalist. Aid workers need to specialise in their field to be able to push for effective implementation and not move from country to country with general ideas as to how aid can work. As an aid worker, generating local solutions will serve the community better than proposing big ideas. (Easterly 2006) Though the concept of aid in itself is way bigger than the development worker, a specialist worker can be more influential in making a difference. Making a difference whether big or small is what aid and development is all about.


Easterly W., 2006 ‘The White Man’s Burden’  Penguin Books, USA

Grieg et al (2007) Challenging Global Inequality: Development Theory and Practice in the 21st Century. Basingstoe: Palgrave Macmillian

Shah. R. (2011) ‘Embracing Enlightened Capitalism’ USAID Public-Private Partnership Forum, Washington DC.  [Accessed October 31st 2011]…/bill-gates-2008-world-economic-forum-creative-capitalism.aspx [Accessed October 27th 2011]…/sir_richard_branson_and_enlightened_capitalism [Accessed November 1st 2011] [Accessed October 31st 2011]



Session 3 : Post Development

Post Development or the end of development as some put it, was actually an assessment of development theories and practice in the world. Towards the end of the 20th Century a new wave of critical approaches hit the world of development. A time frame, where post development theorist openly rejected the state of development and criticised harshly what their predecessors had proposed. Are the solutions to the global issues of poverty and inequality working? Is the gap between the poor countries and the rich being bridged? Are the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor? Post development theorists present an explicit picture of the state of development, during this period. The state of the world clearly showed that poverty and inequality was still prevailing. Theorists like Sachs, Rahnema and Escobar expressed their views strongly on the state of development. In the ‘ Dictionary of Development’, Sachs outlines some of the issues impeding development in poorer countries.

In this unit, we understand explicitly that past theories of development were not working; economic measurements have shown the poor countries are not getting any richer and inequality still prevailed. The state of the world makes us question what development is actually about and whether development is being achieved through the proposed solutions at the time.

Criticisms of previous theories showed that there were major issues. Sachs and his colleagues had two main themes ‘a transition from economies based on fossil-fuel reserves to economies based on biodiversity’ (Sachs 2010) and ‘oppose economic world view and champion the right to act according to values of culture, democracy and justice’ (Sachs 2010)

The effects of industrialisation can be felt all over the world, and industrialisation comes at a price, but is the world prepared, or can the world pay that price of the cost of development? A perfect case study is China. China has progressed rapidly and rubbing shoulders with leading economies of the West. The state of China now was the state of England when the wave of industrialization hit. Coal is the main source of energy/power, running the wheels of these industries and with it pollution. The visible state of pollution in China is horrendous and pollution is threatening growth. Must this be the state that every poor country must go through to reach development? Are there alternate ways of development without /minimal environmental costs? Mr Zhou, china’s minister for Environmental Protection identifies the conflict between humanity and nature and expresses it this way ‘The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of the environment have become serious bottlenecks constraining economic and social development.’(BBC, 2011) There is obviously an on-going, conflict between development by industrialisation and nature, and post development theorists are proposing a shift from this kind of development which is based on modernisation/dependency theories to a model based on biodiversity to save the planet. It is indeed frightening to think of the state of the world along these lines, if every country was to embark on development this way, at what cost will it be to our planet? Will we have our planet less habitable and progress in the name of development? Did the rest of the world miss what Ghandi saw over 80 years ago when he wrote “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialisation after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locust.” (Sachs 2010) Surely the cost of development is a great price to pay. Will the world survive development as it is?

The second theme of criticisms from the post development era borders around the championing of economy, as the major yardstick to development. Modernisation and dependency theorist viewed and measured development by the economic wellbeing of the country, post development theorist propose a shift from this view to more context specifics with the inclusion of variables which enhances a holistic outlook of development. Obviously the ‘grand theory’ and ‘grand narratives’ approach had fallen short of many considerations, and this can be highlighted in the impact of development practice on women and thier indication of the need for removal of the ‘ big umbrella’ in their rejection of generalized research findings. This further supports post development opposition of collectiveness in development studies.

In the light of post development criticism, it is also worth examining the way forward, development studies has been plagued with one era of criticism after the other, is this just another phase of the progress of development or the ushering in of a radical shift in the paradigm of development. I am of the view that the end of development debate is not a sterile but it does not also offer much in terms of solid directives to the way forward. These debates do not seem to have moved a great distance away from what was, although in criticising, it has brought to light certain aspects that can be considered more viable that what was being propagated previously. Critics are of the view that, ‘post development has offered very little in the way of practical guidance to reducing   poverty and overcoming oppression’, they have ‘hesitated to offer any concrete action’ and ‘studies that cry out for some proposal of what to do in desperate situations suddenly end where they should propose or call (safely) for “further research” (Grieg et al’ (2007 p 210) although this makes it look sterile, all  doesn’t seem to be lost in that is provides a higher level of reflection on past theories and I agree with Rapley when says that ‘.. if post development theory fails to provide answers to the pressing needs of today’s world it remains useful for the questions it raises’. It has indeed also brought to light another view in the solution of the problems of poverty and inequality that is global solutions may not work to eradicate poverty and inequality but rather context specific solutions would be better alternatives.

This unit has been exceptionally interesting because of its bearing on current world issues. Learning outcomes include the fact that the world of development has reached a critical stage, development has not fulfilled its promises, past theories are not working and there is the need for new strategies to solve poverty and inequality issues, but do the critiques have the answer? Or must the world wait for a new set of theorists to propose definite solutions. Bill Gates suggests creative capitalism, a term to define the belief that companies can help underserved populations while still making robust profits. Bill Gates (2008). While Sir Richard Branson and Rajiv Shah (USAID) makes a call for the world to embrace enlightened capitalism. Is this truly the way forward or just another phase of development theories?

An experience of mixed emotions from this unit also created a sense of unease. It’s sad to see how things have progressed without viable solutions to issues of poverty and inequality and the cost of this dead end to our planet, however I nurse some hope that as the stark reality has been highlighted by post development theorist a paradigm shift will be considered with the view of yielding better results to create a balance in our world.

This unit once again heightens the need to think critically and to weigh and assess all options before making recommendations. This process of analysing issues also enables one to draw concrete conclusions, which is one of the key things I take away from this unit. I do believe if a more critical approach had been adopted by early theorists of development, the state of the world would be different from what it is now.


Grieg et al (2007) Challenging Global Inequality: Development Theory and Practice in the 21st Century. Basingstoe: Palgrave Macmillian

Lehmann, D. ‘An Opportunity Lost: Escobar’s Deconstruction of Development’ The Journal of Devlopment Studies, Vol 33, No. 4, April 1997, pp.568 – 579. Frank Cass, London.

Sachs, W., (2010) ‘The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power’ Zed Books, London & New York.

Shah. R. (2011) ‘Embracing Enlightened Capitalism’ USAID Public-Private Partnership Forum, Washington DC.  [Accessed October 26th 2011]… [Accessed October 26th 2011]…/bill-gates-2008-world-economic-forum-creative-capitalism.aspx [Accessed October 27th 2011] [Accessed October 27th 2011]…/sir_richard_branson_and_enlightened_capitalism [Accessed November 1st 2011]

Session 2: Early Theories of Development


Events in history, introduced new areas of studies in the world of development.  The Cold War and the wave of decolonization that hit Africa and other colonized countries led to the rise of early theories in development. The issue at hand was how these poorer independent countries were to beef up their   economies to become rich.  Modernization and dependency theories as well as the world system analysis were some of the proposed ways to lift these countries from their poor undeveloped state to being rich and developed.

 I found these theories interesting in the way they proposed the poor states address their progress from poverty to wealth. Modernization theorists advocated the path chartered by developed societies looking more at the social, cultural, political and economic interactions of the poor states in ‘acquiring characteristics common to more developed societies’ as Lerner puts it. Proponents of the dependency theory, which emerged as a critique of the modernization theory emphasised on the economic development of the state based on exogenous forces, ‘…. A situation in which the economy of a certain group of countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which their own is subjected’ says Theotonio Dos Santos.  A shift towards a more structural approach was seen in the world system analysis developed by Immanuel Wallerstein in the 1970’s, where he proposed that the world systems is made up of core, semi-periphery and periphery countries. In this system however, the wealthy core countries dominate and exploit the poor peripheral countries.

In a bid to solve the problems of poverty and inequality it is interesting to note how one theory emerged out of the other, this gives the impression that there is no consensus in solution to the problem, but rather a divided front. The focus here though is not on the emergence of different theories but whether these theories are viable.  The modernisation and dependency theories have proved workable to a certain extent, with the modernisation theory having more bearing on the current state of affairs in the world. Influences of the modernization theory can be seen in the technological advances and provision of international aid to poorer countries. One country in Africa that has made remarkable progress is South Africa, its development has been rapid and now ranks as an emerging market, it was least affected by the recession and predicted by analysts to become a developed country by the second half of the 21st century.  In Asia, Taiwan also stands out in its development. There are indeed some exceptions, but for those countries that have made progressive advances, was is solely on the modernization or dependency models or there were other factors involved? (This will have to be the subject of a new blog). Modernization theory rides on the back of capitalism, which in itself has many evils. The question here is, is it truly modernization? Or is it westernization? Are the poorer countries ever going to catch up with the richer ones?  Is the one cap fit all style of development working? Answers to these questions are some of the flaws which critiques have identified with the modernization theory.

The simplicity of the modernization process is rather intriguing and one wonders if that is all it takes to get there, ‘if you want to get to where we are then you need to do the things we did to get there’ more like a copy and paste process, obviously attention was focused on what society should be (end product) the West, making the west superior, than what it really is (current state) so that any other factor that would impair this process was not really considered. It was presented as a straight progress without weighing any impediments or any obstacles in the countries that fell under the third world. The results are obvious, inequality and poverty gap is not closing and poor and developing countries are nowhere near developed.

It is sad to see the world in this state, it is clear that the one cap fit all strategy is not working for the development of poorer states, not that these  poor states are not developing, but the pace of development is horrifically slow. More saddening, when you find yourself on the developing side and count the cost of ‘interference’ from the ‘west’ without viable solutions to the issues at hand, then it is almost convincing that the West is not helping at all but rather compounding the problems of these poor states .

In looking at why Africa is not developing at it should, I came across this interesting analysis from views on why Africa is not developing, a layman’s point of view on African development ‘Africa exists for the most part in a state of neo-colonialism, every part of Africa is set up by outsiders, Africa serves outsiders better than itself, the outsiders get the resources, they get rich of the resources, until this changes nothing will change in Africa.’ Drusilla (2006) if the ordinary man is thinking this way then obviously all is not adding up. This set me thinking on the dependency theory and its effect. Dependency and the influence of capitalism resulted in the periphery countries strengthening the economies of the core countries at their own expense ‘resulting in stagnation and lack of sustainable development’ in Third World. Idumange (2010). Will the ‘West’ allow peripheral countries to develop? It is indeed convincing that the state of undeveloped countries is suitable for the developed ‘West’ in keeping them rich and developed.

Did these theories really fail? Not totally I would stay, they have their short falls, in that they cannot be used as the yard stick for all poor/underdeveloped/third world countries but to an extent they have served a good purpose. At the time of their emergence, these countries did not have any other alternative so to imitate seemed the good way to go. Some aspects of the theories have been useful in shedding light in some areas of development, how growth and poverty can coexist can be understood from the structural nature of the dependency theory whilst the modernization theory brings in cultural dimensions in development research. All in all these theories will lay the foundation for future development studies.

I found the study of these early theories of development quiet relevant to my existing knowledge, finding myself living in a developing country and originating from another developing country and having travelled several times to some parts of the developed world I am now able to piece together the origins of the current state of development in the world and this has helped immensely in answering some mind boggling questions. Why some countries are more developed than others? Why some depend on others for grants, loans and aid? And why institutions like the IMF and World Bank exist and the role they play in the developing world. I am now confident, that I will be able to think from a better informed perspective and critically analyse the impact of developmental issues in the world. (To some extent of course, since I am just a few weeks into the course).

From the study of this unit, I have also come to the conclusion that in proposing solutions to problems, the one cap fits all strategy is not best practice. There is the need to understand the problem and identify specific solutions to address it, this does not only apply to the world stage of modernisation and development, but in everyday life and every problem solving environment, across board solutions does not work for different problems. If the modernization theorists had taken time to understand the unique problems of poor nations they would not have proposed so simplistic a process of development.

In general unit 2 has been more interesting than I thought, there were so many lines of discussions and relevant issues and current affairs worth talking about, that at a point, I wished I had taken the course full time to participate and enjoy  lecture room and group discussions.


Agreen, I., (2010) The Global Crisis of Capitalism: Myth or Reality? [Accessed October 18th 2011]

Drusilla, (2006), Why Africa is not developing?, [Accessed October 20th 2011]

Grieg, A., Hulme, D. and Turner, M. (2007) Challenging Global Inequality: Development Theory and Practice in the 21st. Century. Basingstoe: Palgrave Macmillan

Hearn, J., ‘Foreign Aid, Democratisation and Civil Society in Africa: A study of South Africa, Ghana and Uganda.  [Accessed October 21st 2011]

Hewitt, T. (2000), ‘Half a Century  of Development’, in Poverty and  Development into the 21st Century, Allen, T., Thomas, A. (eds), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Martinez – Vela, C., (2001) ‘World Systems Theory’ System.pdf  [Accessed October 20th 2011]

Mehta S. (2009) [Accessed October 21st 2011)

Schuster, M., Modernization Theory and Dependencia: Why did they Fail? [Accessed October 21st 2011]

Session 1: Defining & Measuring Development

  LEVEL 1: What did I learn from Unit 1

At the mention of development, words like change, improvement, progress, initiatives of NGO’s and governments come to mind, but do we stop to think beyond these words and the implications of development? Where do we stand when we view development? Are we in the developers seat or we are being developed or are we assessing the level of development? Where we stand, when we view development, greatly affects the way we see it and present it to the world.

The past week has been a great eye opener in my understanding of development. I have always viewed development from the angle of ‘deliberate effort’ by organisations and governments to bring change, and probably assessed their work in my own right.  My line of thinking and assessment had always been if “this” is being done for the people then they must need it and it must be good for them, never really critically looking at these efforts from different angles. Over a period of time, I believe the projects of many development organisations have been applauded without critical assessment to evaluate true development.

In viewing development I leaned on Calvin Coolidge’s words (30th President of United States, 1923 – 1929) “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development, physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

This line of thought on development falls under what Alan Thomas in his chapter on Meanings and Views of Development explains as ‘doing development’.  Obviously from what I have learnt, this is only a tiny branch of the development tree. I choose to call it a tree because of its many branches and offshoots. Other views as explained by Thomas are development as a state of being (desired state) and development as a historical process (process of social change). These viewpoints immediately flash a red light – what really is the meaning of the word development? Can it not be expressed in a single sentence? The answer would be, not really,  as a word it has proven to be both diverse in meaning and subjective, attempts have been made by many scholars to define it, but the logical conclusion is that no definition fits all and it is best defined in context to be applicable.

Development has become almost synonymous to the word change, but the weight here is being placed on change and what qualifies it.  Is it good change or bad change?  Do the developers consult with those in need of development or they impose development on them. In some cases it is argued that development is good, it brings change and improves the conditions of those in need of it, in other cases it is argued that it is not all together positive, it can wipe away cultures, forms of livelihood etc. wiping out the old (which worked well for the people) and imposing the new.

Some scholarly views on development further heighten these offshoots from the development tree. Sachs comments at development this way “The idea of development stands like a ruin in the intellectual landscape….….”(Sachs W. 1992)(Lecture slides) A pessimistic view of development, while Chambers rather optimistically puts it this way “There is no grounds for pessimism. Much can grow on and out of ruin. Past errors as well as achievements contribute to current learning.” (Chambers, 1997, p9) (Lecture slides).Will there ever be a convergence in views of development? The diversity of the term makes that almost impossible.

 Another view of development comes from Alan Thomas, he juxtaposes development with capitalism and indicates that, the rise of capitalism resulted in a natural development (self-generating out of capitalism)) this he refers to as ‘immanent’ development, and on the other hand, interventionism which implies a deliberate effort, which arose to combat the negatives of capitalism. These branches of development have further offshoots which heightens the idea that the term is a complex one.

Thomas further explains the different ‘senses’ of development as he puts it, as an idea (vision) which  he says can be applicably in any field, a historical process(transformation over a period of time) and an activity (deliberate effort),  of which I choose to talk more about the latter. Development as a deliberate effort ( interventionism, which arose out of the ‘evils’ of capitalism) can be seen through the work of governments, international organisations, groups and individuals dedicated to bringing change/ development to others. The question that comes to mind is how do these agencies develop others? Are these agencies channels to impose development on others? Then Banuri puts it well by saying ‘if development means what ‘we’ can do for ‘them’ it is just a license for imperial intervention’ (Banuri 1990) (Thomas 2000). “What can we do with them to help them” or “How can we help them to help themselves” sounds a lot better to me and by this the people are empowered to forge ahead with their own development. I do agree that this channel of development will have its disadvantages, but development without the involvement of the people can result in some level of destruction. The learning outcome here is that there are contestable views on how development  is achieved and which one should be best practice, but in this environment one cap does not fit all, however since development  is for the people and about the people,  I would vote  the concept of empowerment and sustainability.  I believe a little investment in the people by way of dialogue can help policy writers and decision makers to make better choices with the interests of the people in mind and not just about spending the resources available. Development as a deliberate action is needed and important in reducing poverty and inequality in societies, its impact will be greater than it is now if the people being developed had a say in the issues concerning them.

The importance of development lies not only in the fact that it brings about change, how this change is assessed in terms of measurement is equally important. Both Grieg et al and Seers discuss this aspect of development; mainly measurements based on economic (GDP, GNI) and social (health, life expectancy, education, urbanization) indicators. The argument here is that do these indicators capture the true image of development? Inaccuracies in data collection and inability to quantify aspects of some of these indicators make it almost impossible to reach this goal, rendering these indicators faulty. “This rejection of monocausal indicators has led to a growing recognition that the process of development……..monitoring a wider range of socio-economic and political gauges” Grieg et al (2007, p 37). This brings us to the Human Development Index (HDI) introduced in 1990 by the UNDP with Amartya Sen.  In the 2010 interview with Sen, he had this to say “it couldn’t be all about economic growth; it had to be something about human lives”. The HDI’s focus was measuring development based on people’s capabilities and capturing the realities of the lives people. Sen looks at areas of individual entitlements, functioning and capability and fundamental freedoms and human rights, making measuring development more people- centred than economic.

My final thoughts on this image of development as a tree with its many branches and off shoots (making it seemingly complex) are that it is not totally out of place, the guiding theories, both the grand theories and the context-specific theories are evolving and as time goes on and the world changes more theories and shifts in theories will form. This makes me realise how dynamic the world of development studies truly is, and as to whether the tree of development will ever stop growing? I have my strongest doubts. I started out with a single view of development and at the end of the unit I laugh at how wrong I had been all this while.

Level 2: My feelings about Unit 1

Being the first Unit in the module, I must admit I was really tensed up and not sure how it was going to go. So many posts were coming in and I began to wonder if I could read and contribute meaningfully and make time to read and manage the rest of my life without falling apart. By the end of the week I was surprised that I made it through without any problems.

I found activity one an eye opener, it directly established the complexity and diversity of the term development. It immediately set me on the path of critical thinking allowing me to be reflective and look at both sides of the coin as well as being open minded about the views of others that were coming in. It was surprising to see an aspect of development in everybody’s symbol further establishing the fact that context specific analysis of the term development could be one of the best way of looking at it.

 The lecture was comforting, it was good to hear a voice and associate it with a face in this seemingly faceless mode of education. Tom’s lecture was crucial in starting us of in the right direction. It made clearer my thoughts on how diverse development was and how I was going to work my way around it. It also established two distinct views of development that I had picked up during activity one, the dark side of development and the “positive change”.

The reading materials at first glance were overwhelming for me. I outline the required reading and wondered when I was going to finish that and the optional reading as well. I dedicated some time to reading and was surprised at the volume I covered, having established some control helped me to   settle down for the course. Time management has become very essential and working within the time schedules I have set for myself will help me to complete the course successfully.  .

I do feel more confident about the subsequent units and modules and Unit 1 has indeed been a good starting point to the course. Reading materials have been adequate and guidelines have been clearly outlined. Interaction with other students through the discussion board had been both insightful and comforting, a useful platform for sharing ideas and learning. The learning process in itself awakens a level of critical thinking enabling one to do most of the work on their one with a level of understanding which I find most suitable for this level of education.

The course content for this unit has awaken in me a passion for development work, I am totally new to this environment but I long to do something to make a deference in the lives of other people who cannot do it for themselves. I feel more encouraged and confident that I can be able to do this better with knowledge gain on the course and I do admit I am beginning to build up a sense of pride for enrolling.

I must admit I was way too anxious about blogging, but was really grateful for the sample blogs Tom put up and from the discussion board I realised I was not alone in my feelings, which is quiet comforting.

I have thoroughly enjoyed unit one, much to my surprise and my anxieties have been calmed and I look forward confidently to the other units and to completing the module.

 LEVEL 3: What is the relevance, if any, of Unit 1 to your existing knowledge, experience, context or attitudes?

Studying the meanings and definitions of development has completely changed my knowledge about development and the development world. It was a transformational process, from a complete lack of knowledge of development, except  knowledge of some work done by some development agencies to a better informed student who can critically assess the all subjective term development an what it entails.

I enrolled on this course with the aim of making a difference in the lives of others, with the knowledge gained from this unit, I have come to realise that I just cannot make a difference without any guidelines no matter how small the difference I am trying to make. The relevance of this Unit is that it has instructed me in a way to better decisions when it comes to development issues, no matter the scope of change I want to make.

Prior to this unit my decisions have been based hugely on emotions, now I am thinking more along the lines of empowerment, sustainability and most importantly dialogue. I try to do some small scale charity work here in Kampala and I must say this Unit has opened my eyes to the different ways (better) in which I can deal with the people I try to help.

I surprised myself a few days ago when in a discussion with a friend I impressed on her the need to think critically and weigh both sides of the coin before passing judgement. We tried to look at the point she had raised critically and agreed on the outcome of our conversation after doing some critical thinking. I did smile to myself because I realise Unit one had change my way of looking at things now.

 LEVEL 4: In what ways, if any, could you apply what you have learned from unit 1? What would you do differently?

Unit 1 of this module has established the importance of critical thinking. Without critical thinking there is a great tendency that one may draw conclusions that are lame. Critical thinking opens one’s mind to all available options before one draws a conclusion and in this case a strong and justifiable conclusion. Hence to gain a better understanding of any issue I would choose the path of a critical approach to enrich my understanding of the subject matter. The practical critical approach to Unit 1 “the definitions and meanings of development” has helped in making this choice. I look forward to applying this style of thinking to subsequent units and modules and wherever necessary.

Armed with this approach or better still this line of thinking, and with insights gained from measuring development, I will be more cautious about what I accept and do not accept as established facts.  In everyday life we are presented with views of other people through different channels but people, organisations, governments, media houses, establishments can be biased in their presentation of facts to the public. A critical look at what is presented, how it is presented, what the limitations are and what picture they want the world to see will help in deciding whether to embrace totally what is being presented or to take it in with a pinch of salt.

In every discipline there are jargons that guide everyday parlance, but how many of these words have been used and over used and even abused and have lost their true meaning over time. According to Andrea Cornwall language matters and has a strong bearing in its specific field. It is important to watch out for the usage of words, as words in speech and paper can be totally different or fall short of what it actually means on paper. Although I haven’t officially entered the corridors of the world of development yet, this is information I would like to keep in mind to guide me along the way when I do.

From the study of this unit, I have realised the importance of involving all stakeholders to establish change or development and to assess whatever is being done in the long term and weigh its sustainability. My experiences in Uganda influenced my decision to take this course. There are so many people out there who need help of some sort, previously in my associations I will try to meet the needs that I identify without thinking about the situation critically and involving the stakeholder,(eg. I meet someone who needs sugar, I provide the sugar and the next time they need I provide again without thinking of how to help the person get to the point where they can get the sugar themselves)   from what I have gathered from my readings and the discussion board, sustainability as well as stakeholder involvement is key in development, armed with this knowledge, I will dialogue with and involve the stakeholders before embarking on my small scale aid work and forge towards sustainability.

On the whole I have enjoyed the Unit and I look forward to blogging on the other units.


Cornwall, A., (2007) ‘Buzzwords and fuzzwords: deconstructing development discourse’, Development in Practice, Vol. 17,no. 4, pp.471 – 485

Grieg et al. ( 2007) Challenging Global Inequality: Development Theory and Practice in the 21st Century. Basingstoe: Palgrave Macmillian.

ODI, 2001, ‘Economic Theory, Freedom and Human Rights: The work of Amartya Sen’, ODI Briefing Paper, November, Overseas Development Institute.

Seers, D., 1969, ‘The Meaning of Development’, IDS Communication, no. 44, Institute of Development Studies.

Thomas, A., 2000, ‘Meanings and Views of Development’, in: Poverty and Development Into the 21st Century, Allen, T., Thomas, A. (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Transcript (Interview) (accessed 11/10/2011)


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