from Development Channel

Responses to Posts on Alternative Development Measures

The shadows of a mother and child are cast on a shack in Marikana's Nkaneng township in Rustenburg,South Africa, August 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko).

August 26, 2013

The shadows of a mother and child are cast on a shack in Marikana's Nkaneng township in Rustenburg,South Africa, August 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko).
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My recent posts on alternative development measures generated an outpouring of comments. To keep the conversation going, I would like to highlight some responses to the posts and encourage you to share your own thoughts in the comments section below.

In response to Rethinking the Meaning of Development:

From Kimberly Corrigan:

Thank you, Terra. Our nonprofit provides free and low-cost K12 materials, lesson plans and activities to explore complicated, real-world issues on topics of economic and social justice, environmental health and natural resource management, and globalization, climate change, consumption, poverty and population, among other topics.

Our lessons “What’s Up with the GDP?” and “Livin’ the Good Life” would be great resources for teachers to use with their middle and high school students to examine the big themes and complex issues surrounding the essential questions, what is real wealth?, what makes for a happy life?, how can individual achievement, collective action and the common good be balanced in a thriving economic system? Find more @

Thank you for this blog and I look forward to sharing it with our large national and international teacher networks.

From Howard Katzman:

I would like to recommend life expectancy as a composite figure that reflects the evolving quality of life.

Johan Galtung wrote about structural violence or a form of violence where a social structure or social institution harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Structural violence is a high cause of premature death and unnecessary disability. As a result, it can be reflected in life expectancy.

Every index listed to measure the quality of life affects life expectancy. Using life expectancy can take into account the differing expectations of different cultures.

 From Yijia Liang:

This is an interesting article that points to the necessity of reevaluating how we judge development within a country. I agree with the fact that environmental concerns and degrees of human freedom comes into play (seems to point to China), but how should we balance that with economic growth? That is, how should we weigh the other factor’s importance with per capita income? It almost begs for an absolute number determining rate/level of development, yet obviously that’s unattainable. Is there a way we can judge how important these other factors are? Also, how will this method of evaluating be opposed to by countries such as China, Russia, and other economic powers that do indeed sacrifice environmental concerns and human rights?

From Lal D Rai:

Most of the theories of development do not precisely define development or do not define at all what development means! But by implications some understand that development means modernisation, other say it is political and economic restructuring to produce a more even distribution of fruits of development in society and without prejudice against women folks, still others argue that development means empowerment and self-reliance through personal and communal liberation from oppression. There are other themes, like basic needs, sustainable development/environment that intersect with the above three main perspectives, which themselves are neither mutually exclusive. In fact scholars in the field of development argue that all these three perspectives offer deep insights into the reality of development. Do you agree?  

From Jake Grover:

“Other critics point to practical issues of public understanding – whereas the meaning of GDP is relatively clear, alternative measures are more complex and difficult to understand. Others argue that per capita income is both a powerful determinant and reasonable proxy for other aspects of development, since poorer countries also almost invariably have more poor people–rendering other measures redundant and distracting.”

So what is the response to these critiques? Both are powerful arguments that undermine the premise of the article, i.e., that income measures “represent a dramatic oversimplification of wellbeing.”

 In Response to Governments Redefining Development:

From Michele Gonzalez:

I believe we need to define “progress” before defining how to measure it. And that is actually the challenge. Based on our definitions, in that way we are going to propose metrics for understanding it better, and beyond that, we are going to formulate strategies and plans for foster it. I am afraid there will be no end for this conversation, but as development practitioners, defining it as end state and then strategize and plan it will require a starting point, which will inform the way of doing business, the way of measuring success. In World Vision, as a child-focused organization, we believe that the well being of people is visibly seen through the well being of children. Healthy societies will raise healthy children – from the holistic understanding of healthiness -. We believe children are the most vulnerable when societies are broken, families are dysfunctional and the government, as the main duty bearer, fails them. How to encourage Governments, development practitioners and the society as a whole to understand that progress is beyond to how much you can have on your pocket, but it is the quality of life individuals enjoy within their own environment. As organization, we bet for a better future for children. We believe that working with the Government, with society, parents, schools, and other key players for the local development, we will create the healthy environment children need for their holistic development and maximize their potential.

Thank you again for your feedback and please keep sharing your thoughts on this issue. 

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