Does Social Analysis Change the Discourse of Development?

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    Statements that encompass notions of 'people first' or 'people at the centre' have resonated with objectives that increasingly reflect aspirations for sustainable poverty reduction and social development for the developing world, such as the Millennium Development Goals. What does this mean for development practice as revealed in influential financial institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) which provide investment loans, credits and grants in a range of sectors aimed at creating physical and social infrastructure? Before 1970, such development investments proceeded without strategies for social analysis in countries that lacked the mechanisms to regulate the social risks and impacts. Not surprisingly, many investments failed. Pioneering social researchers formulated a 'text' within key development institutions - an evolving composite of policies, methods and procedures setting out the objectives, content and method for participative social analysis in the institutional framework. Contending that most investments need socio-cultural understanding and engagement for their success and sustainability, they set social analysis alongside economic, financial and environmental analysis as a requirement in planning developments. Defining development 'discourse' as fields of knowledge, statements, and development practice, I contend that, whilst the social 'text' has achieved a range of positive outcomes, including international recognition among governments, the private sector and civil society, it has contributed more conclusively to changing development statements than to changing development practice - the 'text' more than the 'effect'. This issue is pertinent in the context of Australia's intention to strengthen its policy and funding engagement with multilateral organisations over the next four years and to ensure it is getting value for money and results from this growing engagement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-67
    JournalBurgmann Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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