4 Institutions of development
Institutional development can be, and is, studied in a variety of ways. Most obviously, the academic disciplines of politics, economics, sociology and anthropology have all contributed to our understanding of institutions and their development. We draw freely on these disciplinary approaches and the insights they have generated.
There are three other qualities that distinguish our approach:
It is concerned with institutional development for development, in which views of ‘development’ are informed by values. We do not all share the same values. However, a useful starting point for thinking about values in this unit has been expressed most explicitly and powerfully by Amartya Sen, for whom development is ‘a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy’; freedom from poverty, freedoms associated with literacy, numeracy, political participation, uncensored speech, and so on.
It recognises the contested nature of institutional development, and that any process of institutional development involves people with different and differing interests, values and meanings. The outcomes of any such process emerge from the negotiations between all the interested parties, which in turn are shaped by the power relationships between the actors involved. This is not a matter simply of dividing the world into the powerful and the powerless. We recognise that power derives from diverse sources, comes in diverse forms, and is never the exclusive possession of any particular group.
It acknowledges that institutional development is undertaken by people and organisations in the public sector, in the private sector and in civil society. This implies that no single sector can claim responsibility for institutional development. It also implies that the quality of institutional development depends on the quality and qualities of the relationships between people and organisations in all three sectors.