Waylaid Dialectic

April 22, 2010

Development and Change

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 11:30 am
Tags: ,

Via Wait … What?, Tales from the Hood has the following advice (as part of a larger, very sensible post):

There is just no way around the critique that aid is ultimately about imposing change from outside. If you want to be involved in aid work, you’ve got to make your peace with that reality.

Amen. Three points if you’re uncomfortable with imposed change:

  1. Remember, change is already taking place. No place on earth is static and even if all the aid agencies on Earth packed up shop, things would still soon stop being the way they are.
  2. Externally imposed change is also already taking place. Globalisation is unavoidable, and will occur with or without aid.
  3. There’s nothing special about the status quo. If there was aid agencies wouldn’t be there.

On the other hand if you’re completely comfortable with externally imposed change…

  1. Just because people live in an under-developed area doesn’t mean there’s nothing good going on in their lives.
  2. Because of this it is possible to make things worse.
  3. And development is complicated.
  4. All the more so for an outsider.
  5. Which means that not only is it possible but it’s actually easy to make things worse.

Take care.


  1. Good points!

    I’ll say once more for emphasis (and I know you’d agree): the reality that changes comes to communities (often) from outside, by no means gives aid workers or aid agencies license to disrespect things local, cut corners in assessment or program design, or use sloppy/inadequate participatory approaches.

    Thanks very much for linking and shouting out.

    All the best,

    Comment by J. — April 22, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  2. Thanks J – I’m definitely in agreement on that.

    Comment by terence — April 22, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  3. Yes, excellent and succint points! Good to see you writing prolifically on development issues again too.

    Comment by Simon — May 4, 2010 @ 11:59 am

  4. Thanks Simon. Hope all’s good with you.

    Comment by terence — May 4, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

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