Masters in International (Un)Development Practice

Joining us on the blog today is fellow MIDP student, Felipe Urrego Gonzalez. Felipe reflects on what it means to ‘develop’ and encourages us to debate whether development is always the answer.

When I think about development I automatically think about vulnerable communities.  I think about how to reduce the gap between them and us.  I think about how we can help them to improve their standard of living, their level of democracy, their wealth, their happiness, and many other aspects that most of us enjoy where we are right now.

Last semester I took Research Methods, and one big consideration was to be ethical about your research. You always have to consider how your research may impact yourself and the communities. Have we considered how development may affect ourselves or communities? Do we have any method or guide to measure how our development projects may impact communities? I know in Project Planning and Management for Development we talked about monitoring and evaluation and its importance; but are there any methods to tell us when not to develop, when not to bring our outside ideas to a community that already has an endogenous model of change that is working for them?

All these questions came after a discussion with a friend. If we develop those that we consider are in need, it already sets a power imbalance between us and them. What about helping powerful companies become ‘less’ developed? Should we, perhaps, focus our efforts on ensuring that the so-called developed world becomes more sustainable or more equal to the rest of the world? That does not mean becoming more violent, or less democratic, or poor. What I am trying to say is that instead of helping communities to understand financial schemes, we should run programs to help international companies to understand indigenous processes. We should contribute to ‘un-developing’ those that are ‘too’ developed.

Think about the investment broker working eight hours a day, making money to have enough to enjoy a nice retirement in a sustainable village in the middle of a forest without any worries related to modern life. Now think about the villager that lives in a sustainable way in the middle of a forest without the worries of modern life. Many agencies try to teach this villager how to use his micro-loan to get more money so he can live in a better place and send his children to study to become brokers and make more money and … (Can you see the irony here?)

I am very glad that during my experience at Monash University undertaking this Master I have become more critical of the role we will play as development practitioners, and the necessity of thinking about the impact our decisions will have in the future.

Let us help to reduce the gap among the world citizens. My idea is to build bottom-up approaches and use them in top-down organisations and processes.

What is your idea?

Felipe Urrego Gonzalez
MIDP Student

ufel2@student.monash.edu

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