From the Ground Up

Friday, September 8, 2017

From the Ground Up

Top-down development doesn't work. What's needed is a "pull model" created by locals, funders, and government agencies working together as equals.

Global developmental mandates and economic planning models often reduce India’s poor to a set of abstract data. Along with funding flows, these forces traditionally dictate developmental agendas that, all too frequently, fail to reflect the real, micro-level needs of communities. What’s more, people rarely get to choose the projects and programs that land in their backyards; too often, they are subjected to development instead.

As a result, many efforts labeled as “progress” in India—whether they’re focused on industrialization, urbanization, modernization, or liberalization—have led to increased marginalization and inequality for the rural poor. Some people have rightly attributed this bitter irony to the inability of locals to be part of the process. In response, “participatory development” has become development’s new avatar, and the rhetoric is replete with promises of empowerment and inclusion. But the fixes have been mostly semantic. In practice, there’s been little change in most outcomes and realities on the ground. ...

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