Module 5: What Does the Future Hold for Community Development?

Now that we have a better (albeit still somewhat simplistic) idea of why the current state of the world is as it is, how do we move forward? How do we incorporate this understanding of a community’s political and social history into a blueprint for change? How do we incentivize collective local action, augment critical consciousness, stimulate participation, or utilize empowerment to generate a dynamic pathway for change? What will the future of the world look like if this change occurs?

While these questions will all be addressed in the Asset-Based Community Development Course, there are other considerations about the discrepancies between rich and poor nations. Hans Rosling, a global health professor at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, has long been an advocate of disputing and clarifying the “gap” between “developed” and “developing” countries. His “current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the West. In fact, most of the Third World is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the West did.”(1)

Watch this entertaining and informative video, and then explore the discussion below.

In the video, Hans mentions that nations conventionally classified as “developing” are finding ways to make headway in the social sector despite persistent economic disadvantages. He says that “this is the drama of this world which many call globalized … is that Asia, Arab countries, Latin America are much more ahead in being healthy, educated, having human resources, than they are economically. There’s a discrepancy in what’s happening today in the emerging economies. There, now social benefits, social progress, are going ahead of economical progress.”(2) He illustrates his point by emphasizing that while parts of sub-Saharan Africa may have the highest rates of child mortality or lowest income on paper, a little bit of data interpretation reveals that their rate of progress is astounding.

“My experience with Africa is that the seemingly impossible is possible. Africa has not done bad. In 50 years they’ve gone from premedieval situation to a very decent 100-year-ago Europe with a functioning national state. I would say that sub-Saharan Africa has done best in the world in the last 50 years because we don’t consider where they came from.”(3)

Hans suggests that those involved in development work adopt a holistic perspective on how multiple dimensions are necessary for overall development. These dimensions—human rights, environment, governance, economic growth, education, health, and culture—can either be means to or goals of development processes. In his example of the progression out of poverty, he depicts the following stages:

In poverty: While living in poverty, individuals are solely concerned with survival.
Out of poverty: Technology allows families to minimize preoccupation with subsistence by increasing their control over their own well-being.
Away from poverty: Moving away from poverty mandates better school, healthcare, transportation infrastructure, information-sharing, microcredits, and accessibility to markets, to name a few.

While Hans does not use this example to provide a formula for the elimination of poverty, he does use it to demonstrate the complex web of improvements that must be made to achieve sustainable development and more fulfilling livelihoods.

In summary, Hans’s visual presentation is useful in that it encourages us to think about development in a new light. Hans considers the finding that “developing” countries are discovering ways to progress efficiently with limited resources, despite any historical disadvantages they may have, as insightful and constructive. As you will see in the Asset-Based Community Development Course, embracing and accentuating the good that communities are already doing is an essential first step to forward movement.

Footnotes

(1) “Hans Rosling: Global health expert; data visionary.” TED talks. Accessed on 26 May 2010.

(2) “Hans Rosling’s new insights on poverty.” TED talks. Minute-marker 5:13. Accessed on 26 May 2010.

(3) Ibid, minute-marker 13:42.