What is development ?

15 Jun

It seems that trying to define “development” is an exercise as arduous as trying to define “happiness” or “love”.
Here I would like to explain how I understand the development phenomenon as it happens within indigenous rural communities, based on my experiences in some tribal villages.

Let’s first remember that within any community, there is a specific culture. I want to say culture in its anthropological meaning, which includes not only the arts, but each and every distinctive characteristics of a community: lifestyle, traditions and values.
Therefore when anything, within the community, changes, it is the culture that changes or develops. Development is ultimately a cultural development.
The culture is not a static component of a community, but rather a dynamic manifestation that is processed in the closed but permeable environment of a community/ecosystem.

Trying to understand development is trying to understand how culture is getting transferred, transformed and shared. Our question becomes: what are the cultural development mechanisms?

The foremost process of cultural transfer is education. Knowledge, traditions and wisdom are passed on from one generation to another through a unidirectional theoretical learning process.
Throughout their life the community members utilize these inherited knowledge, traditions and wisdom. BUT …while performing their daily activities, they inevitably enter the sphere of experience.
And that brings them into another learning process, the experiential learning.
Human beings, being a part of nature, continuously find within themselves a creative force that drives them into innovation. This happens with an aim to overcome problems, to facilitate and improve their life, to enhance their well-being.

Now, very interestingly, in tribal villages, I could observe that whenever someone finds a way to improve something, he or she will share the innovation with others. It never remains at the individual level. Through a multitude of social interactions, it spreads itself within the community. Actually, if anybody uses an advantage, an innovation for himself without sharing, he is simply ejected from the village. So the innovations happen at the individual level and become a cultural dynamic thanks to a system of social dissemination.
This allows the community to evolve, to develop, in a socially harmonious way, and in a very sustainable manner. It gives birth to development processes that are consistent with the cultural ground of the community.

Therefore, development can be understood as all the changes, triggered by the people within their community, energizing the sociocultural dynamics, and which are steps towards enhanced well-being.
It is an endogenous phenomenon which is not supposed to be the consequence of forced injection of external cultural attributes. It is a process which has its roots in the people who learn out of their daily activities & interactions within their local environments. It requires people to share and to collaborate. It jumps over the social layers and it maintains itself through spontaneous creativity.

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