This paper attempts set forth systematically some of the knowledge questions that determine certain strategies for institutional change.
This paper, written upon request for the UNDP volume on Capacity for Development and in time for a big conference in Mexico on the topic, is a good brief summary of my then forthcoming book, Helping People Help Themselves –even if I was screwed out of a sizable honorarium by one of the editors, Malik.
After the dissent-motivated departures of Joseph Stiglitz, Ravi Kanbur, and now Bill Easterly, even “the most casual observer” can begin to “connect the dots” and see that the Bank is having a problem handling dissent and criticism coming from internal sources. This editorial in the World Bank Staff Association Newsletter traces the problem to the organizational stance of taking “Official Views” on the complex questions of development–thereby mixing power and truth to the detriment of the latter.
This survey of the literature on migration and development was my last written product before retiring from the World Bank. But the results of years of documented experience is that migration leads to poverty alleviation (remittances) but not development. This is not the message that the Bank wants to hear so the results are largely ignored.
The major development agencies have ex cathedra “Official Views” (with varying degrees of explicitness) on the complex and controversial questions of development. At the same time, knowledge is now more than ever recognized as key to development—in the idea of a “knowledge bank” or knowledge-based development assistance. I argue that these two practices are in direct conflict—much as making Lysenko’s views as “Official Soviet Science” was in conflict with the progress of the science of genetics in the Soviet Union. When an agency attaches its “brand name” to certain Official Views, then it is very difficult for the agency to also be a learning organization or to foster genuine learning in the clients.
This is a presis of my book Helping People Help Themselves: From the World Bank to an Alternative Philosophy of Development Assistance. (U. of Michigan Press, 2005) I explore several principles or themes of a theory of autonomy-compatible assistance and show how these themes arise in the work of various authors in rather different fields.