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Infographic with elements of development depicted.
Development is about more than just buildings and infrastructure.

So, what is Development?

Development is an industry, a sector, a set of institutions, a mode of practice, a set of aspirations.

It is also a concept that emanated from the so-called ‘developed’ world to describe and represent the condition of the countries, peoples and states that are its targets and assumed ‘beneficiaries’.

Two provocations to think about here:

  • Development has a culture
    • Development’s own culture is produced and enacted by global institutions, policies, governments, agencies, texts and policies.
  • Development work occurs across social and cultural difference.
    • Differences of governance structures and cultures, religion, family, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, justice and legal systems, economic exchange and reciprocity traditions, environmental values are all important considerations in development work.  

Sometimes these issues are downplayed when we talk about development.

Some important things to think about here:

  • Inequity, poverty and exploitation, are often seen as problems internal to a nation, a culture or a religion.
  • Is the role of development to empower and liberate women? Or is it something else?

Your task

Let’s view development from a different angle for a moment, to help us think about the notion of development as a culture, working across difference. Read the Burnum Burnum Declaration (download) that was made on the bicentenary of the British establishing the colony of New South Wales (Lunan, McCaffery and McIntosh 2010).

What would be the first development steps for Britain as a colony based on the Burnum Burnum Declaration?

Share your thoughts in comments.


(Burnam Burnam) 1988, Burnum Burnum Declaration in (Lunan, M, McCaffery J and McIntosh, S) 2010, A’ Adam’s Bairns?: Exploring equality and diversity in Scotland past and present. National Library of Scotland and Scotdec, retrieved 11 June 2019, http://www.scotdec.org.uk/aadamsbairns/index.html.

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Gender and Development

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