Introducing international development management
Introducing international development management

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Introducing international development management

3.2 Managing development: professional and personal challenge

Whatever your background, it is likely that what has brought you to this unit is an interest in, a concern for, the ‘troubled and fast-changing landscape’ I referred to in the previous section. Such an interest, such a concern, can be driven by diverse motives, and you might find it interesting to spend a few minutes thinking about what guides your interest in the development arena. Is it a particular vision of social justice? A specific political position? A commercial interest? Religious beliefs or values? An interest in a particular place or issue?


How do you identify yourself? What interests or values shape and frame your engagement with development?

Whatever lies behind your interest in development, our intention is to help you gain a greater understanding of the concepts and practical skills necessary to better cope with the complexities of that ‘troubled and fast-changing landscape’, the concepts and skills of development management (DM).

You may have a good idea yourself what DM is or you may only have a very vague notion of what you think it is. As a starting point for engaging with debates about DM, it is helpful to hear from a range of people about the work they do and the range of activities they engage in.

Activity 5

Watch the video entitled ‘Challenging development managers’, linked below. In this short video you will be introduced to a range of development managers working on rural development initiatives in the UK and India. You will hear their perspectives on what their roles involve and the challenges they face in their daily work.

As you watch the video clip, reflect on your own experience and how you approach the challenges of managing development in the context of your own work or similar activities. What skills and understanding do you already employ in your work, and what would further enhance your capacities to manage development?

Click to view the video clip (10 minutes).

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 4
Skip transcript: Video 4

Transcript: Video 4

Farhad Vania – Team Leader, Himachal Pradesh Forest Sector Reforms Project
Every project tries to do a different thing and it is in some way organically linked to a previous phase of a previous project.
Chetan Agarwal – Senior Programme Officer, Winrock International India
We first did a lot of brainstorming as to how should we start a project like this and we went around scoping sites, we developed a list of criteria, because this was an action-related project so we wanted to choose a site where we thought there was some possibility of success.
Margaret Davidson – Trustee, Abriachan Forest Trust
I don't know that I had a vision when we started. It was an opportunity. The vision sort of formed over the next 3, 5 years gradually. I think if there was any vision in my mind it was about taking control, about doing it ourselves and releasing the energy that was in people. That's how it started.
Cameron Maxwell – Rural Development Advisor, Forestry Commission Scotland
I think part of what you have to do is to listen to the voices that you hear with the traditional forestry sector, in that if you look at the way the environmental movement has changed in Scotland and Britain, and also the way the people agendas become much more important, you have to be aware of what people outside in pressure groups or NGOs are saying, and to start to take an interest in new ideas that are coming along.
Chetan Agarwal
I think fundamentally it was an adaptive process; you discover new things and the field team discover new things, then we would talk and sort out how will we deal with this issue.
Cameron Maxwell
I think you need to collect new ideas is one thing, you also need to collect information from your staff for them to give you a flavour of what's currently going on and get a flavour of what their new ideas are.
Neil Gerrard – Aftercare Officer, Community Land Unit
It's a personal thing, you have to get a personal feel for how the community wants to do things and that's where the experience of officers actually going out to talk to communities. Sometimes over a very long period, it can be years before a project actually gets fully developed.
Farhad Vania
You want all staff of a department which is at the receiving end of a donor project to fully understand what is their role, what is this project all about, what is its objectives. Often this is seen as a concurrent activity, you immediately start implementation and you hope that people will understand it as time goes along.
Realistically what actually happens is it takes anything up to about 2 years, because projects come with complex objectives and expectations. The staff, as you go down the line and in the department we call them front line staff, are often people who are loaded with several different things that they have to do and the project becomes one more expectation on them, and it takes time for them to understand what is being expected of them this time round.
Cameron Maxwell
If you're coming from the Forestry Commission side you have to work with your staff to demonstrate and to sell a new way of working. Also as well you find a lot of your staff are actually very enthusiastic about this, and are very keen to see the agenda change, and keen to work with communities. And you have to take your time and work with communities and it can be quite time consuming working with community groups, they're doing stuff in their own time, we also have to go forward with certain processes and decide what it is they want.
T.D. Sharma - Project Director, Indo-German Changar Eco-Development Project
Going there just meeting them, conducting meetings off and on, even at times we were most unwelcome guests there, but we just persisted with that and ultimately we succeeded in bringing them to a situation where they could realise the benefits of the whole programme.
Jo Cumming – Trustee, Laggan Forest Trust
We had feasibility studies done on the four sites we want to buy and we held meetings to inform people on that, and the consultants who did the later feasibility study actually met with different groups and I suggested that they include people like the mums and toddlers because of course they may have to be at home just now with their small children, by the time this all comes on the stream 5 years down the line they may be looking for more things to do and locally without having to travel which is a big issue.
Chetan Agarwal
You have to deal with the community as a community, one of the issues was that sometimes the community group is not very representative of the kind of management group which is elected.
Jo Cumming
A few very vociferous opponents can actually colour the whole scene, while actually if you step back and you listen and you talk and you talk quietly to other people, then you say 'oh, that's really good'.
Neil Gerrard
We'd like to speak to everybody but often these projects are steered by quite a small group in a community and one of our functions is to ensure they consult properly with the wider community.
Chetan Agarwal
Whenever you go with any kind of idea to a community and you are selling an idea or a product or a process to them, you got to change the equations within the community, and the communities have got used to people coming from outside and how to deal with them so that their own interests are taken care of.
T.D. Sharma
People rather have been used to some sort of working, a typical kind of working in the project area, and for the last fifty years almost the departments, the government agencies have been at the helm of affairs, and people have also been depending and relying a lot on the government agencies. So that psychology was really a big challenge for us to change that psychology.
Chetan Agarwal
Someone who's already well off and if they can capture a lot of a new resource which comes into the village, then people who are not well off will not like that, so you have to kind of broad-base your intervention in the village so: 'a' you minimise chances of conflict, and you don't make it so lucrative that people run after the rent-capture aspect. So I think you can design your intervention so it's not attracting the wrong kind of folks.
Cameron Maxwell
Policy informs your changes in how you distribute your money for instance. But it also very much informs how managers in a regional areas, the guys that do all the ground work and work, for instance with communities, how their relationships develop and also what they can offer communities.
Neil Gerrard
We try not to influence what communities want to do. Communities approach us first, we don't approach communities and suggest they do something, we try and listen to what communities want to do and act on that.
Farhad Vania
There is a logical sequence to planning, there's some amount of resources available, there's a larger set of expectations in a community, how do you match these two? That's what the planning is all about.
And then there are other resources not just project resources, these are direct budgetary support of government, which can potentially be dovetailed into this planning process, so that's one of the things that we've learnt as we've gone along: that the sequence of steps can possibly be cut down so the planning becomes more focused and sharper.
T.D. Sharma
When we talk about sustainability – sustainability of what? A philosophy? An idea? Values? Or what? A system.
But even a system if you want to make it sustainable I think it is only if there are these elements of dynamism and resilience. And there should be of course a very active forum also because it is always some need, some survival need, that when you feel that, yes, you doubt some strategy, then that converts into some thoughts, people come together they interact, they discuss so that thought process goes on, and the product out of that thought process is action; and that action maybe in the shape of a product, maybe a social structure, maybe an economic structure, maybe any sort of structure, when that is the real product ultimately that is the institution which has to be a self propelling institution.
Farhad Vania
I don't see sustainable forestry or sustainable livelihood happen in a five-year project cycle, these are long-term things. So the impact in my view will come much further down the line long after the project has ended.
But what we do learn now is different ways of doing things, and there I think there definitely has been an impact. We have seen communities able to plan for their own resources; we have seen the forest department able to discuss and plan along with communities, and to me these are achievements. We have forest sector policy in place, we may not be able to implement it but at least we can initiate a process of planning for its implementation.
End transcript: Video 4
Video 4
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).



The experiences described in the video are certainly not exhaustive of what constitutes the arena of DM. Yet they do capture some of the key activities and practical and conceptual challenges faced by those attempting to manage development. And they highlight some of the key skills and capacities that development managers require.

A key issue emerging from the video is recognition of the different values and interests that drive development managers and influence the approaches adopted to processes of intervention. Is there, then, any agreement as to what development management is?

It is likely that there would be some agreement that development management is:

The management of intervention aimed at external social goals in a context of value-based conflict.

(Thomas, 1996)

The key terms here might be paraphrased as:

  • Intervention: influencing social processes rather than using resources to meet goals directly.

  • External social goals: actions directed outside an organisation rather than internal to the organisation, with people as the raison d'etre of such goals.

  • Value-based conflict: such conflict derives from different conceptions of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ and different interests.

Implicit in these concepts is the importance of viewing development policy as process, where the policy process is affected by a multiplicity of interests among state and non-state actors. Which of these, or combination of these, comes to have the greatest influence on policies is an outcome of the balance of power. In this context, the task of the development manager is essentially to negotiate his or her way through the power relationships.

Differing levels of access to resources and power amongst the different actors involved fundamentally affects the nature and impact of their interaction. The concept of ‘public action’ has been used to describe the terrain of DM as comprising many different actors, goals and interests. What do we mean by public action?

By public action we mean purposive collective action, whether for collective private ends or for public ends (however defined). By the public sphere we mean the arena of such public action from parliaments to public demonstrations, passing through the media, trades union activity and voluntary associations for mutual assistance.

(Mackintosh, 1992, p. 5)

‘Public’ in the sense that Mackintosh adopts covers a very wide range of institutions, not only government institutions. The ‘public’ will include, for example, governments, aid agencies, NGOs, community groups, collectives and political movements. Each of these includes a wide range of different types of institution.

From this view, DM moves away from policy implementation in any rigid sense to activities that involve the steering and facilitation of interventions wherever they may originate. This implies thinking beyond organisational boundaries to look at the wider arena in which efforts to promote development and change are being made, and to recognise the importance of building relationships.

This may challenge you to think about your own work, if you currently operate within an organisation with a strong internal focus to its work. Or it may offer a useful framework for thinking about inter-organisational working that you already engage in.

Within this framework of ‘public action’, development management encompasses a range of activities:

  • direct implementation of projects and provision of services;

  • funding of initiatives;

  • coordinating the action of a range of organisations;

  • advising on policy change;

  • evaluating the use of funds/impact of intervention;

  • advocacy in wider political and public arenas.

All of these constitute ‘interventions’ in the sense of attempts to bring about positive change. And in all of them, development managers face a variety of challenges, amongst them:

  • How can interventions be managed in a way that allows flexibility to respond to change, while still keeping focused on longer-term strategic interests?

  • Who should participate in processes of directing and implementing change? Whose voices should be heard? ‘Participation’ these days tends to be taken as a self-evidently ‘good thing’. But is it? And, if so, how is it to be secured given powerful forces working against it?

  • What can be done about inequality? To what extent should efforts to transform inequalities be conducted within existing institutional frameworks and the established order? And to what extent can development managers seek to challenge broader sources of inequality?

  • How do development managers know what to do, and how can they be sure their efforts are having the planned impact? How do they gather the necessary information? And how can they work in situations where much may be ‘unknown’?

  • With competing demands on resources, how can development managers define the boundaries of their intervention and action? Organisational priorities and particular visions of development can be useful in defining a focus for intervention. But they can also constrain opportunities for working across sectors or exploring potentially innovative approaches to working.

Cutting across all these challenges are questions of: how development is defined; how to engage with conflicting values and interests; how to engage with contexts characterised by diversity and complexity; and how to strike a balance between action and reflection.


Where and how do you encounter these challenges, which are both professional and personal? How do you manage them?


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