Should Development Agencies Have Official Views?

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.  In contrast to the “church” or “Party” model, a model of a development agency as an open learning organization is outlined.  That, in turn, allows the agency to take a more autonomy-compatible approach to development assistance with the country “in the driver’s seat” of a learning process—rather than as the passive recipient of aid-sweetened policies from the agency. Reprint from Development in Practice (August 2002).

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