A note on approaches to development
Different approaches to development have evolved among development agencies over the past decades. Popular approaches since the 1970s have included the welfare/charity, anti-poverty, basic-needs and empowerment approaches. HRBA approaches have gained popularity since the 1990s. Each approach has its own underlying understanding of development, poverty, inequality, social change needed, how change should happen and who should drive change. These approaches represent different ways of thinking about development that translate into different ways of designing, planning and implementing development programmes and projects. Recognising that earlier approaches were not bringing about desired changes led many development agencies, including ActionAid, to make a gradual shift to a HRBA. Underlying understandings of the welfare and basic-needs approaches were that people living in poverty would be passive beneficiaries of the trickle down of benefits from gross domestic product (GDP) growth and from infrastructure projects such as dams and bridges. In contrast, pure empowerment approaches stressed the direct participation of people living in poverty and placed human development at the core of their concerns. ActionAid’s HRBA builds on this idea that human development is the central concern. It takes the lead from Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, who defines development as a process of expanding people’s freedoms. According to Sen: “These freedoms are both the primary ends and the principle means of development. They include freedom to participate in the economy, which implies access to credit, among other facilities; freedom of political expression and participation; social opportunities, including entitlement to education and health services; transparency guarantees, involving freedom to deal with others openly; and protective security guaranteed by social safety nets, such as unemployment insurance or famine relief.” Over...
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