The Interdependence of Development Theory and Development Practice

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From the philosophy of the ancient Greek we pick this special word “theoria” that came to define and interpret phenomena, life processes and social behavior. Theory from the Greek “Theoria” is the word we are relating-to which by then referred to looking at, viewing, referring to, contemplation and speculation. This time around we integrate theory with another term ‘development’ to get a full phrase “development theory” which represents the various theories that have been designed to illustrate how desirable change can be achieved in society.

Before we delve deep into understanding the relationship between development theory and development practice, we need to understand what development we are talking about. Development being a term covering diverse fields, it is imperative that we specify which development we are talking about. We are looking at development in terms of improvement in people’s welfare, quality of life, social wellbeing and or the ability of a country to satisfy the population’s needs and wants.

This process takes political, social and economic transformation of the whole community at large based on human interactions and interactivities. Now it should be noted that development as a process of human transformation is not an accident per say, it involves set procedures and assumptions that govern the process. These assumptions just like development have evolved over time just as Rapley J (2007) asserts that “development has come a long way in the past six decades”.

The assumptions that form the foundation of the theories of development determine the operations development practitioners are meant to take. It is against this background that we argue that “theory informs practice and also practice informs theory” thus making development theory and development practice complimentary or just like the statement in question says “two sides from the same coin.”

The purpose of this essay is to analyse the relationship between development theory and development practice as complimentary concepts that depend parasitically on each other. The other part of the essay shall look at the superiority of either concept over the other.

To begin with I have reached an agreement that development theory and development practice are two sides of the same coin this is because both feed on each other to make development programs successful. The analysis below identifies how and why I am in agreement with the statement in question.

Development theory helps in explanation and interpretation of the development phenomena that must be put in practice. Just like in research there is need to define, interpret and explain the various phenomena under question. Unless the phenomena are fully explained, it may be hard for the development practitioners to determine the way forward of the project under implementation. It is from this background that theory becomes relevant and feeds practice. Buchanan (1994) emphasizes the relationship between theory and practice when he advocates for a broader conceptualization of theory based on “praxix” or practice recognizing that knowledge is contingent and contextual rather than universal, determinate and invariable.” This would then invalidate the “one-size-fits-all development projects that have dominated development practice today as implemented by international institutions to the developing countries.

Garry Jacobs (1999) states that “the formulation of valid theory possesses enormous power to elevate and accelerate the expansion and development of human capabilities in any field.” In terms of development theory genuine empowerment of the human capabilities depend basically on the validity and applicability of the set theory and assumptions. In such a case development theory is relevant to informing development practice. This of course is subject to how valid or invalid the theory is to the realities on the ground. Granted, the reality on the ground is not in line with the...
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