Social Analysis in Development Interventions: Policy Artefact or Constructive Transformation?

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    Recently attention has focused on the role of social researchers in the processes of construction and transmission of knowledge about global poverty and its reduction. This paper examines some of the formative efforts by pioneering social researchers in development institutions to step into the realm of policy making to construct processes for project preparation and management through social analysis. Before 1970 development planners invoked 'social' or 'human' factors only as an excuse to explain away project failures - they designed and implemented development projects in the absence of any strategies or regulatory frameworks for managing their social impacts. Recognizing that project investments represent induced change and constitute a social process in themselves, pioneering social researchers constructed policies and procedures to introduce sociological content and method into the project cycle and so re-order social outcomes. Were such constructs merely policy artefacts? Even as the constructs helped to shift the statements of the development discourse towards 'people oriented' poverty reduction, new modalities appeared which tested the limits of the agreed methods. Institutions may forget, neglect, contest or re-write the documents if in perceived conflict with the institutional 'core business'. Yet those pioneering efforts created institutional space for, and understanding of, social analysis, with a measure of flow-on international recognition. Tracking social analysis in several international institutions and in a significant emerging economy, China, this paper highlights not only a history full of lessons to be learned where social analysis is not practiced systematically but also outlines some future challenges.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)361-384
    JournalRomanian Journal for Sociology
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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