Document Text (Pages 21-30) Back to Document

Community Capacity and Governance – New Approaches to Development and Evaluation

by Banyai, Cindy Lyn, PhD

Page 21

amazing and saddening when you consider that household water use is less than 5% of total
water consumption (Watkins, 2006, p. 7), with the remainder going toward agricultural and
industrial uses. Additionally, this household water consumption is inequitably distributed, with
those living in high-income cities in the developing world having access to significantly higher
amounts of higher quality water than people living in city slums or rural areas of the same
country, often at lower prices (Watkins, 2006, p. 2). These considerations further reinforce the
necessity to address poverty, particularly rural poverty, both in terms of economic and human

This chapter will emphasize the need for a new paradigm on economics and development and
delve into the concepts that are helping to shape this new paradigm. The guiding questions for
this chapter are:
(1.) What is the importance of development?
(2.) What are the current paradigms of development?
(3.) What is community?
(4.) What is social capital?
(5.) What is community capacity?
(6.) What are some approaches to development and community capacity building?

These questions will be addressed through a review of the relevant literature on various
aspects of development, such as economic development, alternative and human development,
sustainable development, rural development, and community development. The foundation
concepts of community, social capital, community capacity, and community capacity building
are also introduced. The first section begins with the importance of development.

1. Development

For some, discussing development as an imperative for international economic reform does
not seem natural. However, considering the links between nations in trade and commerce,
particularly between developed and not yet developed countries, it is important to take the needs
of not yet developed nations into consideration while formulating economic reforms. Since
those nations are primarily concerned with development, modernization, and poverty reduction,
these issues should also be prominent concerns of economic reform. This is in addition to the
moral imperative that we all share to address the needs of those that are continually dispossessed
by the structural inequities of our current global system.

True global economic advancement requires considering development and poverty
alleviation. Sachs (2005) calls for a re-examination of what we think we know about economics
and global development. “Although introductory economics textbooks preach individualism and
decentralized markets, our safety and prosperity depend at least as much on collective decisions
to fight disease, promote good science and widespread education, provide critical infrastructure,
and act in unison to help the poorest of the poor (Sachs, 2005, pp. 2-3).” There is a definite need
to construct an international sense of community and to cultivate a commitment to proactively
and appropriately address poverty in all of its forms. Both of those things are related to global
economic well-being.

M.C. Behera (2007) describes three levels from three areas in development discourse. First
there is the policy level where international aid agencies set objectives and priorities. The
second level attempts to understand development issues from various perspectives, perhaps at the
state level, and comprises the conceptual level. The third is the practical level focusing on


Page 22

methodology (Behera, 2007, p. 25). Behera’s description of the development policy structure is
a good starting point for understanding the complexity and relationships between various
stakeholders in development.

The United Nations (UN) has declared development and poverty alleviation top concerns and
reaffirmed its commitment to these concerns in the Doha Outcomes Document in 2008 and
through outcomes based objectives such as the MDGs. Even though the BWIs, particularly the
WB, are interested in widespread economic development, their approach of structural adjustment
programs (Cling, Razafindrakoto, & Roubaud, 2002b, p. 156; Sachs 2005, p. 81; Friedmann
1992, p. 2), “problem-solving,” and donor-led development often ignore important contextual
issues (Cling, 2002, p. 34) that are key to comprehensive and sustainable development.
However, there are some signals that the approach to development of international donors is
changing. The Vice President of the WB’s Program for Sustainable Development notes a change
in priorities for the WB, namely a refocus on poverty as an economic, social and environmental
responsibility, and recognition of the growing interconnectedness of the global economy
(Johnson, 2005).

Development is not a blanket term that can be tossed around to describe any sort of program,
project, or larger policy. While it can be said that development is related to changes in economic
and social variables associated with production increases and the improvement of the quality of
life, these changes do no necessarily indicate development (Yogo, 2000, p. 19). A value
judgment about these changes must be made (Yogo, 2000, p. 19) and there should be a focus on
the roles of resources, organizations, and norms and their mutual interactions (Yogo, 2000, p.
20). The roles of resources, organizations, and norms and their interactions can be best
understood at the community level through understanding and analysis of community capacity
(which will be discussed at length in this work).

Not only does development itself need to be recognized as an important component of the
global economic system, but the focus and the level of economic thinking needs to be redirected.
Rural economies need to be taken into greater consideration in the global economic system
because that is where the bulk of poverty lies (Cling, 2002, p. 36; International Fund for
Agricultural Development [IFAD], 2001, p. 1; Quibria, 1993, p.1; Kanbur et al., 2006, p.1).
Additionally, impoverished rural communities are the most vulnerable to economic shocks
(IFAD, 2001, pp.4-5), and susceptible to various aspects of cyclical poverty (poverty trap, fiscal
trap, demographic trap, as well as issues with geography, human capital, and empowerment, see
Sachs, 2005, pp. 79-81).

Establishing that development, in its various forms, needs to be addressed is only one
component to true poverty alleviation. Cling (2002) points out that “it is obviously a good thing
to try to convince privileged groups of the need to attack poverty, but we should not delude
ourselves: for the time being there will continue to be conflicts of interest between the rich and
the poor, and even between different groups of poor people (p . 38).” These privileged groups
include the G-7 and other healthy economies, as well as economically dominant and privileged
groups in developing countries. Everyone needs to understand the importance of equitable
development and improved quality of life for all and how it can affect their lives, particularly
those who are not confronted with true poverty on a daily basis.

This section explores several components and approaches to development. First, economic
development and poverty alleviation are addressed. Next, alternative development and its related
development approaches, such as human development and sustainable development, are explored
as the most contemporary paradigms. Finally, the specialized sectors of rural and community


Page 23

development are examined. Through these discussions a better understanding of what
development means today and how it is being undertaken will be gained.

1.1. Economic Development and Poverty Alleviation

Economic development may be considered traditional development, with a focus on raising
incomes and the fiscal side of poverty. Additionally, those subscribing to the paradigm of
economic development feel that a lack of financial success is the root of all the problems
associated with poverty. In fact, most national development strategies employ some sort of
economic growth model in the form of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP); a
testament to how widespread the commitment to the potential benefits of economic development

While the benefits of economic development may not be as widespread or easily
understandable as previously thought, there are undoubted advantages to it. Some have
discovered that designing development strategies that focus on economic development, but
incorporate social justice or environmental considerations are more palatable to participants,
donors and administrators (Fleming, 2009). In any case, in order to design an effective strategy
to alleviate poverty there must be a careful assessment of the widespread impact of economic
policies (Cling et al., 2002a, p. 20). However, it should be noted that some of the advantages
associated with economic growth are not necessarily quantifiable or dependent explicitly on a
particular rate of growth or expansion of income. Some of these advantages include a userfriendly
and cooperative local political climate (Gobar, 1993, p. 20).

Many authors and practitioners feel that economic growth does not explicitly lead to poverty
reduction or improved quality of life for ordinary people on an equitable basis (Cling, 2002;
Collier, 2007; Friedmann, 1992; Sachs, 2005; Zachariah, 1993) and many involved with
development have been moving away from economic development and toward an alternative
development paradigm (Behera, 2006; Pieterse, 1998). While economic growth, at any level,
may not be the silver bullet of development, having greater economic capabilities does increase
people’s ability to obtain resources and may even give them greater status and power within their
community, as the commonly held paradigm on economic development dictates. Therefore,
economic growth still plays an important role in comprehensive development policy making.

However, a focus on economic development should not replace actual strategic thinking on
inclusive development and poverty reduction (Collier, 2007, p. 11). It is the magnitude of the
role and the scope of growth that is currently under discussion. The remainder of this discussion
on economic development will focus on the detrimental effects of poverty and the strategies that
are being used to reduce it, as well as some of the positive outcomes of economic growth.

Economic development is not as straight forward as calculating growth, inflation, and
unemployment. Both the costs and benefits of economic development must be considered,
particularly the human and environmental costs (Friedmann, 1992, p. 9). M. G. Quibria (1993)
finds that the roots of poverty lie in the interaction of sociocultural factors, the distribution of
productive assets, development strategies, and the global environment for trade and finance (p.
6). Poverty can also be seen as disempowerment, with poor households lacking the social power
to improve their condition (Friedmann, 1992, p. 66; Cling, 2002, p. 29). Social cohesion and the
absence of striking inequalities determine the quality and level of economic growth (Cling, 2002,
p. 29). Poverty alleviation is the reduction of the effects of poverty in terms of both financial and
social factors.


Page 24

Like Quibria, Friedmann and the WB, many have recognized that factors outside of
economics, such as democracy, good governance, and appropriation have as much of an impact
on the economic path of developing countries as traditional economic measures (Razafindrakoto
& Roubaud, 2002a, p. 126). Public institutions need to take a pro-poor approach, in addition to
promoting diversification of social assets and strengthening national cohesion, to make poverty
reductions strategies effective (Cling, 2002, p. 31).

The 1994 HDR found a positive correlation between infrastructure networks and economic
growth through facilitating competitiveness and trade (United Nations [UN], 2001, p. 1).
Infrastructure development creates the macro-economic conditions for poverty reduction. The
connection of vulnerable households through infrastructure development can also reduce poverty
on a micro-level through better access to water, sanitation, and energy. This contributes to
improved health and increased productivity, and provides better market access and income
generation potential to small producers (UN, 2001, pp. 1-2).

Furthermore, a country’s economic growth can be affected by any of several poverty traps
and systemic problems and failures. Jeffery Sachs, an American economist, outlines these traps
and issues in his 2005 book The End of Poverty. Sachs (2005) argues that the failure to achieve
economic growth is not the fault of the poor but due to the poverty trap (where poverty itself
causes economic stagnation (p. 56)), the fiscal trap (where the government lacks resources to
develop infrastructure and cannot collect taxes because of poverty, or inept, corrupt government
or debt-ridden government (p. 59)), physical geography, governance failures, cultural barriers,
geopolitics (trade barriers (p. 61)), lack of innovation, and/or the demographic trap (elevated
fertility rates means families cannot afford to invest in all of their children meaning the next
generation is typically impoverished and has high fertility rates (p. 65)).

Paul Collier in his 2007 book The Bottom Billion generally agrees with many of the points
Sachs makes including physical geography (Collier is particularly concerned about landlocked
countries (p. 53)) and bad governance (especially in small countries (p. 64)). He then adds two
additional traps, the conflict trap (a pattern of violent internal challenges to government (p. 17))
and the natural resource trap (a paradoxical trap where the discovery of valuable natural
resources in the context of poverty lead to increased poverty or adds to the conflict trap (p. 38)).
These issues and traps all fall outside of what it typically addressed in an economic development
initiative, yet have an effect on the economic development of an area. By acknowledging the
importance of the varying factors that affect the economic status of a country or a community, a
better, more comprehensive policy for advancement and poverty alleviation can be formulated.

In terms of interventions to deal with the various traps and issues, a few approaches have
been offered. Sachs (2005) suggests what he calls “clinical economics,” which includes an
understanding that economies are complex systems and implores economists to make contextual
decisions offering solutions that may not be directly related to the problem at hand. Clinical
economics also requires monitoring and evaluation (M & E) particularly in terms of outcomes
and advocates for ethical and professional standards in the development community (requiring
those involved with policy to be versed in the context of the place and to give honest advice to
patrons and donors alike) (pp. 79-81).

Collier (2007) looks at four instruments of economic development: aid, security, laws and
charters, and trade (p. 176). However, he advocates for all of the instruments to be used, but
notes that the first instrument, aid, is being used poorly and the others are scarcely used at all to
achieve economic development (p. 176). To break the resource trap, Collier (2007) would like to
see a charter similar to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (p. 178). For the conflict


Page 25

trap, he suggests two points of intervention: post conflict and deep penetration with an emphasis
on improving and stabilizing a post-conflict region through harmonization of donors and local
government empowerment (Collier, 2007, p. 177). For poverty alleviation in landlocked
countries, Collier (2007) suggests improved and increased aid to the country in question and its
neighbors to ensure transport corridors (p. 179). In countries with governance problems, he
suggests encouragement and fortitude on the part of the local people and leaders fighting to
combat corruption, which can be done through intelligently offering aid because an influx of
resources may contribute to the poor governance and corruption (Collier, 2007, p. 181). The
final instrument of trade is of some consternation for Collier. He notes that currently, most trade
is designed to broker the best deal in terms of economic and entrenched interests and that in
order for it to become a tool for development the focus of the administrative agency in charge of
trade must be on “fostering the development of the bottom billion (Collier, 2007, p. 187).”

Al Gobar (1993) suggests that “the key to a successful economic development program is to
generate early winners, while keeping an eye on clear, quantifiable long-term goals (p. 18).”
Both of these aspects play an important role in the success of any development intervention.
Finding champions of a program help to inspire others to participate and develop their own
interests. This becomes particularly important as the poor often lack the ability to fully articulate
their interests and formulate ways to pursue them (Gibson & Woolcock, 2008, p. 153). This is
not say that impoverished people lack these capabilities indefinitely, but that their lack of ability
often stems from systematic disempowerment or a lack of education or experience. Champions
and other best practice examples help to spread the message of an initiative through practical
examples and role modeling.

Additionally, having a well formulated plan with clear outcomes and an accompanying way
to gauge them through a comprehensive evaluation system helps to maintain the interest of the
participants and stimulates further donor support. Gobar (1993) also calls for a “realistic
appraisal of how available resources can be mobilized to exploit special opportunities defined by
the pattern of resources and limitations [in a community] (p. 23).” This analysis of the situation
in a community where an intervention for economic development is being undertaken is part of a
holistic and localized evaluation system, which ultimately leads to better outcomes both in terms
of the intervention and the community. The 2006 HDR echoes this sentiment for comprehensive
planning and evaluation by citing the need for policies that produce positive outcomes for the
poor through setting attainable targets in national plans that are backed by financing provisions
and strategies for overcoming inequality (Watkins, 2006, p. 11).

These lessons and suggestions regarding economic development can be utilized while
implementing any type of development or policy, such as in alternative development. The next
subsection delves into the alternative development approach and describes the benefits of taking
this approach, as well as various complementary approaches.

1.2. Alternative development

Alternative development has become the catchall phrase for those interested in breaking
away from traditional development paradigms steeped in macro-economics and foreign policy or
security issues. It may be considered the contemporary mainstream approach to development
and has seen successes (Pieterse, 1998, p. 345). Some authors accept some of the aspects of
alternative development and offer their permutations (Friedmann, 1992), but others reject
alternative development altogether and suggest another framework of their own design as with


Page 26

Jan Nederveen Pieterse (1998) with his introduction of reflexive development, citing a necessity
for a practical framework and a difference between normative and structuralist approaches. For
the purpose of this analysis, alternative development will serve as an umbrella term to cover
various modern paradigms of development including participatory development (see Cornwell &
Brock, 2005; Behera 2007), integrated development (see Ray, 2006), neo-endogenous
development (see Ray, 2006), reflexive development (see Pieterse, 1998), human development
(see Jahan, 2005; Sen, 1999, 2005; Watkins, 2006), and sustainable development (see Victor,

The primary tenets of alternative development are that development be people-centered,
community-focused, participatory in practice, and committed to environmental preservation
(Friedmann, 1992, pp. 2-4; Pieterse, 1998, p. 343, Ray, 2006, p. 256, 260; see also Hobbs,
Dokecki, Hoover-Demsey, Moroney, Shayne & Weeks, 1984; Cornwell & Brock 2005); also
there is less of an emphasis on production and profits (Friedmann, 1992, p, 31). However,
economic growth and stability are still important because of their relationship with sustained
human progress (Watkins, 2006, p. 263). The real change in approach comes in the ways that
the effectiveness of economic growth is measured, which are reflected in quality of life
indicators such as the HDI (Watkins, 2006, p. 263). Human development indicators tend to rise
and fall with income (Watkins, 2006, p. 264). This factor reinforces the relationship between
economic development and human development. However, noting its non-directionality, the
picture that the two concepts of development are intertwined begins to emerge, demonstrating
the necessity for multiple approaches.

The alternative development paradigm also contends that the state is part of the problem,
people can do no wrong, communities can work together well, community action is sufficient for
development and political action must be avoided (Friedmann, 1992, p. 6). These contentions
are not universally recognized or practiced as a part of a new working paradigm of development
(Friedmann, 1992, p. 7), but its departure from the traditional, top-down, politically motivated
economic development approaches of the past is evident.

The approach of alternative development is supported by the internationally recognized
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Friedmann, 1992, p. 10). From this concept sprang the
MDGs, which are a reflection of human development (Jahan, 2005, p. 2). However, they do not
cover all aspects of human development, notably not addressing participation, human security
(Jahan, 2005, p. 2), respect for human rights, democracy, and inequality (Watkins 2006, p. 263),
which are key components of alternative development. The MDGs have been further criticized
as not truly being a strategy that informs actions of governments, companies, and NGOs, as well
as being beyond the power that any enterprise can deliver (Victor, 2006, p. 94). This indicates
that the MDGs, although helpful in providing some direction for development, are not the ‘endall-be-all’
and that ultimately development policy and strategies must be designed and
implemented proactively and contextually at the local level.

On the other hand, some critics of human development and even human rights contend that
economic development must precede human development. However, with the success of Japan
and the continuing progressive development of East and Southeast Asia this theory has been
debunked (Sen, 1999, p. 19). In fact, human development facilitates economic and industrial
expansion, and improves the efficiency and wide reach of the market economy (Sen, 1999, p.
22). Considering the human factor has broadened the perspective of politicians and practitioners
on the terms and definitions of poverty and the ways that are being undertaken to reduce it.


Page 27

Public policy should be modeled around values of human development and community
(Dokecki, 1983 as cited in McMillan & George, 1986, p. 12; see also Hobbs et al., 1984).

With the paradigm shift toward what can be described as alternative development, a slew of
catch phrases have been introduced to the development dialogue such as participation,
empowerment and poverty (Cornwell & Brock, 2005, p. 1044), as well as capacity and capacity
building. The new verbage helps to provide direction and legitimacy to development initiatives
(Cornwell & Brock, 2005, p. 1044); however, they are not universally understood or used. This
works seeks to bring some clarity to these terms and their application.

One of the major components of the gradual shift in development paradigms since the early
1970’s has been a growing recognition of the need to address issues outside of mere economic
development (Adjibolosoo, 1998, p. 206; Aguirre, 1998, p. 180; Friedmann, 1992, p. 1; Sen,
2005, p. 2). These human factors of development construe a mishmash of quality of life
indicators that can affect and are affected by economic development. Some even advocate
addressing human development before embarking upon traditional means of economic
development (Adjibolosoo, 1998, p. 212).

The creation of social opportunities, such as education and health care, make a direct
contribution to human capabilities and the quality of life (Sen, 1999, p. 21). Interestingly, Sen
(1999) points out that the provision of basic education and health care is labor intensive, and
labor is one asset that is typically of abundance in impoverished areas and therefore relatively
cheap in developing countries (p. 21). Following this logic, achieving these basic tenants of
humanity should be less costly than it is in already developed countries and therefore a better
investment of limited development dollars.

Amartya Sen (2005) describes the focus on human life as taking the capability approach (p.
2). The capability approach concentrates on the actual opportunities of living, rather than the
means of living, which is often the focus of economic development (Sen, 2005, p. 2). Sen (2005)
goes on to relate capability to a concept of freedom with the dual aspects of the opportunities that
a person has and the processes they have to go through to live their life (p. 16). These views
stem from Sen’s overall vision of development as freedom, which he goes into detail in his 2000
book, Development as Freedom. Focusing on human life through taking a capability approach is
precisely what proponents of alternative development incorporate into their personal paradigms.
The human factor and the capability approach begin to describe human development, which is
another component of alternative development.

While the benefits of human development to people in terms of quality of life are quite
obvious, there are other periphery benefits as well. Human development can reduce overreliance
on overseas development assistance (ODA), lead to production of higher values goods
thus increasing an area’s level of active participation in the world economy, reduce
environmental degradation, as well as expand and improve education (Aguirre, 1998, p. 180).

As described earlier, Friedmann (1992) described poverty as disempowerment, which is
related to the way that Sen looks at development as freedom. Friedmann’s (1992) concept of
disempowerment sees households as lacking the necessary social power to improve their lives.
He goes on to describe the eight bases of social power as:1) defensible life space - physical space
in which household members cook, eat, sleep, and secure their personal possessions; 2) surplus
time - time available to the household economy over and above the time necessary for gaining
subsistence livelihood; 3) knowledge and skills - educational levels, human resources; 4)
appropriate information - reasonably accurate information bearing on a household's struggle for
subsistence; 5) social organization - formal and informal organizations to which household


Page 28

members may belong; 6) social networks - essential for self-reliant actions based on reciprocity;
7) instruments of work and livelihood - tools of household production; and 8) financial resources
- monetary income as well as access to credit (Friedmann, 1992, pp. 67-69). These dimensions
are the ways in which poverty can be categorized into non-economic variables.

Empowering people through these eight bases of social power will reduce non-economic
poverty, as well as lead to higher potentials in household income generation. Kirk & Shutte
(2004) echo Friedmann’s emphasis on empowerment and participation to help achieve
(sustainable) development (p. 234). Alternative development, through focusing on improving the
lives of the poor explicitly, promises further self-development of human beings as individuals
(Friedmann, 1992, p. 12); something that will inevitably benefit all people through the potential
of creativity and innovation.

John Friedmann (1992) and others (Allen, 1993; Sen, 1999) in the practical realm agree that
development in the absence of the state is simply not feasible or advisable. Friedmann (1992)
states “…without the state's collaboration, the lot of the poor cannot be significantly improved.
Local empowering action requires a strong state (p. 7).” He goes on to note that “if an
alternative development is to advocate the social empowerment of the poor, it must also advocate
their political empowerment (p. 7).” Friedmann’s position indicates a need for cooperation
between the people and the government, local and extra-regional. This lends support to a redefinition
of community to include government as a necessary stakeholder.

The inclusion of various stakeholders in the development process is known as participatory
development. Participatory development has moved from relatively passive approaches to
participation, such as Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA), to more active and cooperative forms of
participation, such as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Participatory Learning and Action
(PLA) (Behera, 2007, p. 38). Due to criticisms of participatory development being ineffective,
largely due to their failure to engage with issues of power and politics, some have called for an
expansion of the understanding of participation to include an “expanded and radicalized
understanding of citizenship (Hickey & Mohan, 2005, p. 238).” More participatory approaches
stem from the search for alternative methods of planning and data collection because of the
frustration with the ineffectiveness of the externally imposed and expert-oriented approaches,
and the concern with social transformation and giving voice to dispossessed groups (Behera,
2007, p. 38). Truly participatory tools are needed to gain creedance and success through
alternative development.

Some have argued that there is a discrepancy between development theory and development
practice, particularly in terms of participatory measures (Chhotray, 2005, p, 429). This leads to
trouble with policy formulation that is truly conducive to poverty alleviation and truly effective
in terms of human development (Chhotray, 2005, p, 429). Citing the case of a participatory
development project in India, Vasudha Chhotray (2005) supports the idea that the state is
important in achieving development outcomes, but that policy-making should be truly
participatory in nature and less top-down. Furthermore, project implementation should be
localized to improve delivery capacity (Chhotray, 2005, p, 440).

According to Prem M. Sharma (2000), the participatory approach in India evolved out of the
weaknesses experienced in earlier projects implemented in the country that did not take the
community into account (p. 70). Chhotray’s main critique of the project and the stance of the
Indian state is that they call their project participatory in accordance with current development
parlance, but lacks actual participation in project formulation and implementation. It is a similar
lament that many academics and practitioners have and has led to some serious critiques on the


Page 29

effectiveness of “participatory” development and the use of the term “participatory” (Cornwell &
Brock, 2005; Gibson & Woolcock, 2008). While it is correct to critique policy makers that
dubiously use “participatory” to push their initiatives, not all participatory efforts in development
are futile. Again, this is a call for inclusive participatory methods in development and

Cornwell and Brock (2005) agree that participatory development and its accompanying
buzzwords may not live up to their purported hype. However, they find that there is a consistent
framework for the development of national PRSPs as well as international development goals,
such as the MDGs (p. 1049). They go on to say that “the narrative of the PRSP consensus—that
poverty reduction can only be achieved through country-driven, partnership and result-oriented,
comprehensive, long-term strategies—chimes with the narrative of the MDG consensus—that
international development is a measurable moral goal that the governments of all countries
should strive towards (Cornwell & Brock, 2005, p. 1049).” Cornwell and Brock indicate that
there is some participation in development and poverty alleviation at the state level, but it may
not truly involve state actors in the decision process.

In the name of efficiency and time conservation, many practitioners and politicians feel that
the participatory process is too cumbersome to be useful, particularly at the local level (Sharma,
2000, p. 71) where human resources are scarce and administrative capacity is low. This is due in
part to a heavy emphasis on the achievement of targets imposed by outside donors and an overreliance
on traditional top-down management styles (Sharma, 2000, p. 71). Sharma (2000)
recognizes the roadblocks to participation in development and project management through his
examination of the Doon Valley Watershed Project in India. However, he still finds that
participation by the local community is important, particularly when the project is processoriented
(Sharma, 2000, p. 76) opposed to objective-oriented. Sharma (2000) also advocates for
a participatory approach involving the community to be utilized be all agencies to ensure that the
processes and procedures of projects are of value to the people involved (p. 85).

Another shortcoming to the way that participatory methods are being utilized is that they tend
to simplify community differences, failing to understand power relationships and conflicts
(Behera, 2007, p. 38). It is for this reason that it is crucial to take the context into consideration
while formulating and implementing a development policy, as well as involving the local
stakeholders in a meaningful way. “The significance of participatory development lies in its
recognition of diversity as the participatory process in itself is socially inclusive and empowering
(Behera, 2007, p. 39).”

Sustainable development is another concept related to alternative development, dating back
to the mid-1980s and a report entitled “Our Common Future” (Victor, 2006, p. 91). The report
connected the importance of economic development to the protection of natural resources and
social justice and reinforced the idea that they are not mutually exclusive goals (Victor, 2006, p.
91). Sustainable development came to the forefront of international discussions at the 1992
Earth Summit in Rio de Janerio where more than 100 heads of state, 170 government, 2400 NGO
representatives, and 10,000 journalists were present (Victor, 2006, p. 93). Two main documents
were produced from this summit and the related following summits and negotiations, Agenda 21,
an action plan, and the Rio Declaration, a statement of principles (Victor, 2006, p. 93). Two
secretariats were established, one on climate change and the other on biological diversity, as well
as the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), charged with monitoring the
implementation of Agenda 21 (Victor, 2006, p. 94).


Page 30

Sustainable development has definitely become commonly referred to in the international
development and political debate. Most governments and organizations have taken measures
toward sustainable development as a practice and a paradigm due to its popularity. For instance,
Canada, an already developed nation, took an institutional approach to sustainable development
by creating multi-stakeholder organizations to develop consensus decisions on principles of
sustainable development (Robinson, 1997, p. 25). Many Canadian agencies approach the
challenge of sustainable development through community participation in their projects to
promote local ownership of actions and solutions (Robinson, 1997, p. 30). Here is where the
overlap between sustainable development and participatory development can be seen. Even UN
programs, such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), have been increasingly
taking a participatory approach to sustainable development, although this is often done at the
national level (United Nations Development Program - Management Development and
Governance Division [UNDP], 1997, p. 2). The UNDP has further noted that there is a necessity
to focus on developing national capacities to achieve sustainable development (UNDP, 1997, p.

Small villages, such as Gaviotas in Colombia, have begun to take on the task of sustainable
development (Weisman, 1998). Gaviotas has approached their sustainable development in a
participatory way, through the utilization of technology, and partnership with local and extralocal
organizations without losing their localized vision of development (Weisman, 1998).
Gaviotas is a modern example of localized alternative development.

As the popularity and messages of sustainable development have been spreading over the
past two decades, businesses and enterprises have begun to consider their role in sustainable
development. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is another buzzword that is used by various
industries to describe their efforts to contribute to, or at least mitigate their negative effects on,
sustainable development. E. S. Woodlard Jr. (1992) says that industry has a role to play in
sustainable development (p. 305). He says that industrial CSR should minimize the need for
regulation by demonstrating their willingness to take responsibility for the impacts of their
activities (Woodlard, 1992, p. 306). Furthermore, Woodlard (1992) advocates for local decision
making through market economics and entrepreneurial activity in order to be able to address
local issues (p. 306), which is consistent with the concept of alternative development. According
to Woodlard (1992), the keys to sustainable industrial development are: 1) education and open
dialogue, 2) waste minimization and pollution prevention, 3) product stewardship, 4) innovative
product design and marketing, and 5) advocates for private sector approach for sustainable
development (p. 307).

David Victor (2006) is critical of the international processes and progress related to
sustainable development. Victor (2006) says that governments and the UN have marginalized
sustainable development by “failing to articulate serious objectives and coherent strategies for its
implementation” and embracing all suggested objectives, but setting “no specific priorities or
targets, making it impossible to mobilize support for any strategy or to measure progress (p.
94).” Furthermore, he states that the CSD has accomplished very little (p. 94) and that the
diplomatic processes involved devote too much effort to “lengthening the international
community's wish list and not enough to articulating and ranking the types of practical measures
that are the hallmark of serious policy making (Victor, 2006, p. 95).” Although Victor is correct
in stating that there is a greater need for discussion on implementation practices and other
administrative mechanisms, sustainable development will only be successful if there is an
awareness of local context and theory importation (Kirk & Shutte, 2004, p. 234), leaving room


© 2009 All Rights Reserved.