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Beyond the Linear Logic of Project AidAlternative Understandings of Participation and Community Vitality Dr. Amanda Kiessel Sewalanka Foundation, Sri Lanka
Development Aid waste of resources FAILURE INEFFECTIVE inappropriate interventions
The Response… • ‘Participatory community development’ • Social mobilization • Participatory assessments and planning • Capacity building of community-based organizations • Revolving loan funds for microfinance
The Response… • Targeted project interventions • Logical Framework (Logframe) • Measurable outputs (deliverables) • Project Cycle Management: complete activities and deliver outputs according to pre-determined timeline and budget
Participatory Community Development Targeted Project Interventions • Both are responses to critiques of development aid • Both intended to increase accountability, effectiveness BUT… • Based on contradictory understandings of the nature of social transformation World views make a difference
Linear Paradigm • Emerged in the 17th century • Scientific Revolution - advances in our understanding of linear systems Linear systems • Same association between specific causes and effects at all times and in all places • PREDICTABLE, can be described by universal laws • Orderly path, reaches equilibrium or endpoint
Linear Social Systems? • Provides a sense of security in an uncertain world • Future is predictable, controllable (Dewey 1930, Toulmin 1992) If we uncover the ‘universal laws of development’ and have the right experts at the controls, we will move quickly and certainly towards the desired end state… a DEVELOPEDsociety
Assumptions of Conventional Project Aid EXPERT ASSUMPTION Those who are ‘developed’ have the ability (and obligation) to intervene on behalf of those perceived to be less developed. (Cowen and Shenton 1996) PREDICTABILITY ASSUMPTION It is possible to direct social change and achieve predictable results through planned development interventions. X inputs + Y activities = Z outputs
Challenges to Project Aid Assumptions EXPERT ASSUMPTION (Bunch 1982, Chambers 1983, Haverkort and van der Kamp 1991, Roling and Wagemakers 1998, Uphoff 2002 ) PREDICTABILITY ASSUMPTION • Experiences of participatory development practitioners • Ancient Eastern philosophies/religions • Scientific research on non-linear phenomena and complex adaptive systems
Beyond a Linear Paradigm “In chemistry, when Carbon and Oxygen come together, you get Carbon Dioxide. It’s crystal clear. It’s always the same. But in social science, in social mobilization, when people come together, it’s different every time.” • Complex, unpredictable • Incessantly in motion (no end state) • Context matters (no universal formula) • Everything is linked and interdependent (no objective observer/planner) • Personal transformation is at the basis of social transformation • Change emerges from within the system (cannot be imposed or planned)
If you give me a fish you have fed me for a day. If you teach me to fish…
…then you have fed me until the water is polluted and the beach is seized for hotel development…
…but if you teach me toORGANIZE… …then whatever the challenge, I can join together with my community and we will develop our own solution.
Social Change in a Complex World • Agent rule sets and reactivity • Change attitudes, increase likelihood of acting and interacting • Interactions between agents • Density of local network connections, capacity to act as a single agent • Links with external agents and institutions • Policies and institutions that contribute to an enabling macro environment
Implications Development Aid • Projects with pre-determined inputs, activities, budget allocations, and outputs unnecessarily restrict the process of change they claim to support • Funding for ‘participatory development’ should be flexible, process-oriented, available in smaller amounts over more time Research • Project evaluations do not look at underlying assumptions • Need more in-depth ethnographies of specific interventions • Unanticipated consequences • Role of individual ‘agents’ • Influence of context and changing conditions
GNH and a Complexity Paradigm • Provides value-based ‘mark at the top of the page’ • Flexible reminder of where we want to go • Maintain focus despite daily complexities of social change • Provides space and flexibility to adjust to local context, adapt to change, and learn from experience • Highlights role of individual agents in system-level change