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Understanding Development

How time flies. Surprisingly, it’s now two weeks since I opened a blog here. Actually, I started my journal blog last month in another site  upon    a pastor friend’s advice to help my healing process. Knowing that most of my time is spent at home due to limited mobility, he encouraged me and taught me how to maximize this venue offered by information technology. Indeed, it works. My interest in writing has been revived, too. Hence, I decided to open another blog to ventilate  my suppressed commitment to the service of the people towards development.

Undecided yet to create my niche, I made use of the EDSA Revolution 25th  Anniversary as starting ground for reflections. The feeling of gratitude to God for my survival and the thoughts of my contribution in shaping the history has been cathartic. Moving freely, naturally and spontaneously, this blog has  now reached its focus: NETWORKING FOR  SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT.

The term “development” became a by-word after the Second World War resulting from the growing attention of the industrialized west to the conditions of the Third World countries. Since then, the concept has evolved into various perspectives. Ironically, at times the interpretation has caused debates, conflict and division, at the expenses of the people who is the real subject and not merely an object  of development.

Understanding development is more comprehensive when put in the context of the  reason why it was introduced, i.e. poverty. Poverty is a worldwide phenomenon resulting from defects in the socio-economic, political and cultural structures. It is not restricted to low income, but also lack or limited access to socio-economic services and opportunities.

Two conflicting views have been prevalent on the root cause of poverty. Some believe the poor are responsible for their poverty, claiming that  society offers everyone equal opportunity to develop. But many does not grab this.  Others have already resigned to being poor with little or no motivation to improve themselves. Oscar Lewis labeled this as the Culture of Poverty. The other view puts the blame to the society  which is harsh and discriminatory to the poor. Either  way, wealth or  poverty, is a product of  unequal distribution of resources within a society.

As used by national Development Planners, development is the process whereby the state deliberately fosters economic abundance  and social equity through the orderly and wise utilization of resources in order to attain a better life for all. It is planned process using any form of action or communications designed to change the environment , techniques, institutions, and  attitudes  of the people  in such a way as to eliminate poverty and improve their way of life

At its broadest, development means quite simply “improving society.” Since the society comprises no more than the people it is made up of, development, therefore, can mean, “enabling people to achieve their aspirations.” The choice of the word “enabling” instead of “providing” connotes that true development is done by people not to people. The government and non-government organizations or networks through various programs and services might coordinate such development, but the people themselves achieve it.

Development, therefore, is not a commodity to be weighed or measured by GNP statistics. As used in this study, development is a “process of change that enables people to take charge of their own destinies and realize their full potential.” It requires individual and concerted effort in building up in people their confidence, skills, assets and freedom necessary to achieve this goal.

Development in this sense is akin to what Clark (1990) call “just development” which he associated with  “attacking the web of forces that cause poverty.” According to Clark, this development demands that equity, democracy, and social justice is paramount objectives, alongside the need for economic growth. It must enable the weaker members of society to improve their situation by providing the social services they need and by enabling them to acquire the assets and to improve the productivity of those assets. It must combat vulnerability and isolation. It must ensure the sustainable use of natural resources and combat exploitation, particularly the oppression of women. And it must make the institutions of society accountable to the people. For Clark, just development comprises the following ingredients, represented by the acronym, DEPENDS: Development of infrastructure, Economic growth, Poverty alleviation, Equity, Natural resource bases protection, Democracy, Social justice.