for Equity and Justice
the institutionalisation of development, the field has been preoccupied
with progress and prosperity for all. Reality, however, has fallen short
of expectations evident in the persisting issues of inequality. With
each crisis, these issues become even more apparent. In the current one,
in India we see it in the stark images of the plight of migrant informal
workers. If reduction in poverty and inequality are the desired goals,
then our development paradigms need to be re-thought to be geared
towards enabling just systems that encourage dignified livelihoods.
Reversing years of following systems
requires careful thought where development is not a matter of: for
communities, from practitioners and policymakers, but rather is a
process unleashed with those who have been marginalised and silenced in
free-market economies. The project of re-imagination seems like a lofty
one but is one which is quite well-encompassed within the social
innovation methodologies practiced by the Development Alternatives
Unlearning our assumptions and ideologies is
a necessary step in deconstructing
redundant systems. It requires reflexivity in practitioners, asking
themselves difficult questions especially when ‘speaking for’ the
marginalised or those we think are ‘in need of development’. Do we need
to ‘speak for them’? Or are they aware of their contexts and
complexities, which we can embrace to embed solidarity in practice?
Practices of deep listening and reflection can enable a narrative shift
towards a reflective and resilient base, sowing the seeds for
solidarity. For instance, during this crisis, even in isolation,
connectedness has been possible through phone conversations and
community chat groups between the entrepreneurs. Just by listening,
stories of community resilience have come to the fore.
Secondly, through dialogue and interaction,
we can begin to re-learn and re-construct our development paradigms to
recognise heterogeneous lives, livelihoods and aspirations that
well-intentioned but dispersed efforts cannot adequately respond to.
Instead experiences from the Work4Progress programme indicate that
dialogue can open up spaces for co-creation of locally relevant
solutions with system wide impact.
Finally, re-imagining new paradigms for
development practice towards dignified and meaningful livelihoods
requires a commitment to consistent learning and re-iteration for
sustained social change. A one-time, linear approach is unethical in its
aspirations. It ignites possibilities for change, without being backed
by real action.
The promise for social change that social
innovation entails, however, does not sit in the civil society,
philanthropy or even in the wider development architecture. Rather, the
promise is in the activation of local connections and networks that can
build a robust rural economy. The social opportunities that would emerge
as a result can enable people to shape their collective destinies, and
maybe not find themselves stranded in urban centres again with failed
hopes of a better life. Re-imagined development practice at its core,
would facilitate people, as Amartya Sen (1999)1 pithily put
it, to choose the life they have reason to value.
Amartya Sen (1999) Development as Freedom.
Oxford University Press
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