Introducing international development management
Introducing international development management

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Introducing international development management

3.3 Development management in the twenty-first century

Section 3.3 homes in on efforts to reframe DM at the start of the twenty-first century. It highlights the blurring of boundaries between the approaches adopted by development actors, such as the state, NGOs and private sector organisations, as well as ongoing tensions and contradictions in interests and actions.

Three changes are particularly important:

  1. The tendency to pretend that the state has disappeared or, if not, is by definition a barrier to development, has been largely sidelined. Instead, there is recognition that the state is still a key agency in development and DM, albeit in a reformed way. There is, for example, greater recognition of the multiplicity of the state, notably in the context of de-centralisation efforts and of the role of quasi-markets and contracts as features of state operating modalities.

  2. Given the use of markets, and market ‘solutions’ to improving economic growth and the provision of services, private sector companies and businesses can also be seen as making a contribution to ‘development’. Debates about the relative merits of promoting ‘trade’ or ‘aid’ remain heated at a global level. Juggling social and economic goals (promoting ‘corporate social responsibility’) is an increasing concern within the world of business and commerce. There is also increasing focus on the ability of development efforts to be self-sustaining through becoming ‘social enterprises’.

  3. There has always been a wide variety reflecting the heterogeneity of a given society, but it is only in recent years that different agencies have become so intertwined. What is key now to understanding DM is the inter-relation of agencies, including NGOs, community groups and other civil society players.

How have those working in the development arena responded to these changes? How do changing relations between state/private sector/civil society impact on approaches to DM? On the one hand, you can highlight areas of convergence in rhetoric and practice of different sectors: concerns with participation, listening, accountability and sustainability have become almost ubiquitous. On the other hand, there remain differences in approach and in how values translate into management practices.

You can explore this pattern of convergence and divergence in the following activity.

Activity 6

Read the case study by Ann le Mare (2006) ‘Belfast travellers: a case study of the provision of housing and services for the travelling community in Belfast’, linked below.

This activity provides you with an opportunity to engage with the details of a specific set of development concerns and explore how different actors were (and were not) involved in interventions to promote change.

As you explore the material, make notes in response to the following questions:

  1. What are the main problems faced by the travellers?

  2. Who are the key actors in this case? What types of activities are they engaged with?

  3. Can you identify particular interests and approaches adopted by state, NGOs and the private sector?

  4. What challenges does this case pose for development managers seeking to promote opportunities for travellers?

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A range of development concerns are identified in the case study, including housing issues, health and education, and the development of economic opportunities. The specific problems stem from the marginalisation of travellers within the broader society. With the focus of development efforts in Northern Ireland largely on tackling Protestant/Catholic divisions, travellers' concerns appear well down on the political agenda, despite evidence of their relative disadvantage (see p. 7).

A range of different organisations are involved in initiatives to provide housing and other services to travellers, which you could broadly categorise as state, NGO (or voluntary sector) and private sector interests. What is striking is the diversity of groups within each category. For example, NGO groups exhibited diverse interests and were often in competition with each other for funding (a position ameliorated to some extent by the formation of a new organisation An Munia Tober).

You also see examples of the blurring of boundaries. For example, formal partnership arrangements have been developed to facilitate interaction between different layers of government (from the European Union to District Councils), the voluntary sector, trade unions and local businesses. However, more does appear to need to be done to extend the benefits of this cross-boundary organisational working to the needs of travellers, who remain largely excluded from participation in such forums.

The implications of this kind of example for managers are that there can be no expectation of straightforward implementation of policy in a complex and contested multi-agency setting. Despite policy commitments to promoting participation and inclusion, it cannot be assumed that this will translate directly into defined actions.

Managers (in whatever type of organisation) will need to be aware of the diversity of interests and relationships that impact on practices on the ground, power imbalances, and competing political and economic interests.


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