Skip main navigation

So, what is development?

Development is more than an industry, sector or set of aspirations. Read as Dr Maree Pardy explores the less obvious aspects of development.
Infographic with elements of development depicted.
© Deakin University

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 are:

  1. Development has a culture

    Development’s own culture is produced and enacted by global institutions, policies, governments, agencies, texts and policies.

  2. 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, which is why it’s also important to think about:

  • inequity, poverty and exploitation, which are often seen as problems internal to a nation, a culture or a religion
  • whether the role of development is to empower and liberate women or something else.

Your task

To help us think about the notion of development as a culture, working across difference, let’s view development from a slightly different angle.

To do this, read the Burnum Burnum Declaration that was made on the bicentenary marking the establishment of the British colony of New South Wales in Australia.

Based on this declaration, what would be the first development steps for such a colony?

Discuss your thoughts and reasoning with other learners in the comments.

© Deakin University
This article is from the free online

Gender and Development

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now