Introducing Change in Development Projects–Part 2

One new theory about community change says it doesn’t happen by asking villagers what’s wrong with their village. A criticism of the Millennium Village model is that it doesn’t rely on standard assessment procedures such as comparing control groups to test groups to measure the results of active inputs.

The Millennium Village model brings multiple inputs, recognizing that health, income and education are interrelated and require attention simultaneously. This comprehensive approach is changing lives.

Another interesting model tackles problems by identifying a village’s strengths and organizing people around them. Rather than talking about how to introduce change at a theoretical level or assuming that a step-by-step implementation strategy developed elsewhere applies across the board, this action-oriented method of problem-solving focuses on grassroots strengths and builds upon them. Heath and Heath illustrate how Cambodian mothers improved their children’s nutrition by following the practices of mothers with healthy children in a nearby village. They learned how “successful” moms selected and prepared locally available food that was not normally considered appropriate for families to consume. This is organic, community-based change that resulted in changed behavior.

It did not rely heavily on a community survey to identify a range of problems. It is solution-based. It identifies a problem and applies community knowledge to it, supplementing it as needed. Among its strengths is sensitivity to the unique context of the village. It addresses specific needs within this context and does not apply solutions conceived from outside based upon methodologies that are theoretically strong but unrelated to the local culture.

It’s pragmatic “Larry the cable guy” development theory–“Let’s get ‘er done.”

I think there are other advantages I’ll address in the next post but I’m interested in what you think. Is it necessary to use traditional measurements to assess development progress? Is not doing so a weakness?

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