Doing development

Guide to Financial Management

Doing development

Further Reading on Doing Development


This is a very short selection of a few books from a large literature. Many other books and papers discuss the same issues.


1. Araujo Freire and Macedo, The Paulo Freire Reader, New York: Continuum, 1998

This reader provides a short general introduction to Freire’s ideas and biography, before presenting chapters from many of his works. Freire’s ideas are frames in Marxist terms, but his method remains widely respected in many NGOs today.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Chapters 1 & 2

These chapters analyse relationships between the oppressor and the oppressed. Freire describes how the only route to liberation is for the oppressed to become aware of the structures of oppression and to struggle to over-turn them (conscientisation). This can be achieved through dialogue (so as to explore people’s different realities) and praxis: action and reflection. (Ie people can only liberate themselves – they cannot ‘be liberated’.)

“Problem-posing education” has a unique role to play in this, helping people to break down the structures of oppression which dominate how they think about the world and their place in the world.

Freire warns against ‘superficial conversions’ to the cause of liberation and in particular against a lack of trust on their part of the abilities of the oppressed to think for themselves: “Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.”

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2. Chambers, Robert, Whose reality counts? Putting the first last, 1997, ITDG Publishing

Chambers make an impassioned case for using Participatory Rural Appraisal at the heart of all development interventions. He takes examples from the World Bank, but most of his insights also apply to NGOs.

He reviews some massive mistakes made in development work and analyses why they came about, concludes that ‘uppers’ have exploited their privileged positions to impose their own reality (based on their own professionalism) in a way that does not recognise the local, complex, diverse, dynamic and unpredictable realities of poor people and consequently disempowers them.

He concludes that for development to succeed (through PRA), uppers need to change their behaviour, converting to values of self-critical awareness, respect and disempowering themselves. He refers to this as the ‘new high ground’ which he suggests as a new paradigm, which every development professional can choose to join – or not.

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3. Fowler, Alan, Striking a balance: enhancing the effectiveness of non-governmental organisations in international development, Earthscan:1997

Fowler provides a comprehensive, sensitive and well-informed analysis of what NGOs are trying to do and of how they can effectively go about trying to do it.

He places NGO activity within a wide-ranging reading of global organisation and trends, and also a sensitive understanding of how meanings are constructed at the local level.

Fowler recognises the centrality of values, participation, decentralisation and leadership in NGO work; the distorting influence of projects; and the wide-spread weaknesses in current NGO practice. He sets out many reported examples of current good practice, providing practical advice as to how these weaknesses could be addressed. This advice include detailed comments on strategic planning, management, HR, fundraising and performance assessment.

The book concludes with some very general comments about how NGOs can build capacity and global trends that may affect their work over the next 10-15 years, suggesting that NGOs need to adapt to these changing circumstances. The book was funded by and written for large NGDOs.

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4. Lewis, David and Wallace, Tina (eds) New roles and relevance: development NGOs and the challenge of change, Kumarian Press, 2000 (including chapter by Allan Kaplan)

One of the issues this book discusses is the “continuing lack of structures and procedures for accountability to the very people they claim to work for and represent – poor women and men themselves – and [NGOs’] real difficulties with being open about their mistakes and trying to learn from them.” P.xiii

Chapter by Allan Kaplan: “Understanding development as a living process”

“The concept of development has become bastardised. … Many feel that the development project has failed: The gap between rich and poor has increased rather than decreased, and ecological and social problems render our world unsustainable. Development theory has undergone many transformations over the years … Questions abound, but there is little change in development practice …”

“The concept of the ‘development project’ is the repository of all that is wrong with conventional development practice and the greatest stumbling block to effective development interventions.”

“The central point of development is to enable people to participate in the governance of their own lives.” It is not about short-term, quantifiable, discrete projects.

“Development is nonlinear, unpredictable, and even anarchic.”… “It follows that development interventions are essentially about the development of people and that development cannot be imposed. Ultimately, development is driven from within, so while a development worker must bring specialist knowledge and skill to an intervention, the final outcome of the intervention is determined by the client.”

“Moreover, development processes take significant periods of time, and their flow – in terms of both time and outcome – cannot be determined beforehand. An effective development practice accompanies clients through their developmental changes; one-off interventions and predesigned packages are beside the point.”

Five points describing good management of development practice:

  • develop effective development practitioners,
  • allow them the space to be creative with respect to their styles of “reading” development processes, reporting and facilitation,
  • supervise them through a ‘continuous conversation’ rather than judge them by results,
  • ensure that the organisation is learning all the time,
  • responsibility and authority must be decentralised, devolved to the outer limits of the organisation as far as possible.

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5. Sen, Amartya, Human Rights and Human Development, UNDP Human Development Report 2000

Sen argues that Human Rights and Human Development share common motivations and aims. The two approaches are complementary and have much to gain from each other.

Human Development focuses directly on the progress of human lives and well-being. It is intimately connected with enhancing the capabilities that people have reason to value – “the range of things a person can do and be in leading a life”.

This has to include a recognition of political liberties and democratic freedoms. The Human Rights perspective can indicate who has duties in respect of these freedoms, which in turn may lead to an analysis of culpability, accountability and responsibility.

From the other point of view, a Human Development approach can help understand how Human Rights can become institutional realities (particularly when choices have to be made due to resource limitations).

Human Rights do not have to be accompanied by matching, defined duties (ascribed to duty-bearers). They may not be fulfilled, but are still morally valid due to their foundation in solidarity and shared humanity.

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