Understanding international development
Understanding international development

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Understanding international development

1.2.3 Issues of scale

Detroit and Shanghai are becoming increasingly linked as a result of globalisation of the automobile industry. By globalisation we mean increasing connectivity and interaction across national boundaries. In fact, this process is breaking down traditional boundaries and barriers geographically, socially and economically, leading to:

  • new threats – for example, global pandemic flu outbreaks
  • new agents of development – for example, global protest movements such as Jubilee 2000 or the ONE campaign that followed
  • new power struggles – for example, the battle for economic dominance between the USA and China
  • new opportunities – for example, new markets for business, greater opportunities for cultural exchange and perhaps the most obvious, wider communication and connectivity through IT infrastructure.

Development activities and the impacts of globalisation are equally important, if not more so, at a range of other scales too, including, as noted in Chapter 2, the local community or household, subnational, regional and national scales. At all levels, scale is important for thinking about the definition of development goals and in understanding the unplanned and intentional routes towards them.

Activity 5

Timing: 1.5 hours

Read the three short articles below and then answer the following questions. In answering these questions you will interrogate how urban farming impacts, and is impacted by, events and individuals at a variety of different scales.

  1. When and where was Urban Farming created? How did it then expand?
  2. Does Peaches and Green differ from Urban Farming in its organisational set up?
  3. How are individuals involved in the work of these two organisations?

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Urban Farming is one of the largest urban farming organisations in Detroit. Created in 2005, it has since expanded to over 30 cities around the world. This is an example of a not-for-profit organisation that has expanded beyond its original boundaries and moved from focusing on one particular community to an international focus. On the other hand, Peaches and Green, is very much a community specific initiative, run by the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation, another not-for-profit organisation. However, whereas the food produced by the Urban Farming organisation is given for free, Peaches and Green has been set up with the potential to become self-sustaining operating a shop and a mobile sales van. In the second article – a blog posting – we see that people volunteer their time to assist the work of Peaches and Green. What we don’t know is whether their shop staff are also volunteers or are paid staff. With regards to using pictures as evidence, you can never guarantee that you can get all the information or understand the full situation from a single source. Similarly, it is important to think about the context around which the piece of evidence that you are reading has been framed within. So in this case we would perhaps want to find out more about who wrote the piece we’ve just read and think a bit about why they might have written it; what were they trying to tell us by writing the description of events in the way that they did?

Finally, before we move away from thinking about scale, it is necessary for us to place the urban farming example within its wider context. What do we mean by wider context? It is important to think about urban farming from the context of these two organisations and the people who volunteer within them, but also to consider how their work is impacting on the communities in which they work and how these communities are impacting on them. Some of these are mentioned in the articles you have just read (improving diets; creating a sense of community through working collectively, making parts of the city look beautiful). We can also broaden the discussion out further to ask what impact do the efforts of Detroit’s urban farmers have on other urban farmers around the world and vice versa. We can widen our question out further still to its impact on larger debates within Detroit, in Michigan State, nationally within the US or even internationally. Lastly, to be able to make a full assessment of the issues of scale involved, we also need to ask what factors might impact on urban farming in Detroit that are found beyond the level of the community (so at city, state, national and international levels). What might these be? There isn’t time to go into these in detail here, so here are a few examples of scale issues that you might have thought of:

  1. Detroit’s urban farmers are an exemplar for others (some urban farming organisations in Detroit are linked to local colleges with the aim of teaching ‘the next generation’ while, on an international level, Detroit based urban farmers have gone to countries such as South Africa to share urban farming techniques).
  2. Detroit’s urban farms fitted within Detroit’s regeneration efforts (in 2010 a proposal was being considered by the mayor of Detroit to move the few people remaining out of the abandoned neighbourhoods into other areas and turn large parts of the city into open farm land).
  3. Detroit’s urban farms are impacted by everything from changing global weather patterns to international agricultural market price fluctuations to municipal rules on land use.

Activity 6

Timing: 45 minutes

Now review all your notes that you have made so far and draw a spray diagram that helps collate your notes around the issue of scale.


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