My Development Philosophy

In Capacity Building, Career Development, Growing Up, International Development, Sustainable Development on April 3, 2006 at 4:18 pm

In keeping with my goal of having this blog be more a professional resource than a personal venting machine, below is my Development Philosophy Statement. This was written specifically for a course I took at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. This is how I felt in Spring 2005, and it’s how I feel now.

My Personal Development Philosophy Statement

I am not the luckiest man on the face of the earth. That moniker should be reserved for someone who is a happy victim of fate. I am lucky in that I have had ample opportunity to work on myself professionally and personally, without any uncommon outside obstacles other than my own frailties. With this good fortune comes a feeling of gratitude. Yet, my gratification was not free. I am a citizen of the world and what great fortune I have access to now will never be truly mine–it is borrowed. It is my duty to pass on my fortune, using my knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitude to help alleviate suffering and inequality in the world. It is within this personal development paradigm that I now write this development philosophy statement.

What vision do you hold for the future that you are striving to create?
I would like to one day take my daughter to Doutouel, Niger – my Peace Corps Village – and for her to see healthy families watching their children go to school. I want the children of Doutouel to feel positive about their future. I want my villagers to feel empowered. They are already proud and happy to be alive, despite their hardships.
Inequality will be diminished. Global inequality is unjust and must be remedied, but the goal is not total equality of material wealth and consumption. There will always be both rich and poor, but the poorest will always have a chance to lift themselves up.
People will be able to trust and count on an honest and representative government. Governments will use the most up to date and sound environmental and economic research and information to manage worldwide growth and development. Democratic government should be the ultimate form of governance. People, not corporations, should have control over how they are governed. One person equals one vote; one dollar equals one dollar; two dollars equals one latté.
Humanitarian crises will be immediately attended to and alleviated in a globally coordinated and supported effort. Threats to household food security, such as droughts, pests, and conflict will be constantly monitored and evaluated. The world will be ready to alleviate suffering and the political will to act will not be hard to find.
Health care will be free and dependable. AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis will be under control and rolled back. Antiretroviral drug therapies will be widely available and disseminated. Local governments will have the capacity to control the spread of bacterial disease and other infectious threats to public health. Infant mortality will be a solemn memory, instead of a reality. Women will have dependable access to adequate prenatal care, and dying during childbirth will become as rare as a snowball in Ghana.
Infrastructure, including electricity, roads and public transportation will be adequately maintained where needed and appropriate. People will be able to afford travel when necessary. Communication technology, especially cell phones will be affordable and available for all. Information will flow freely on well-maintained IT points that communities can use to work with local and national authority. This will enable more responsive government.
Everyone will have access to clean water. People will have to pay for water, but only above basic needs. Water infrastructure will be maintained by the government. Water use will be dependent upon sustainable environmental management; modern (or sometimes ancient) and efficient irrigation techniques will have to be adopted. Water sources will be fairly shared among nations.
Girls and boys will be equally educated. Education will be free and guaranteed for everyone to the end of secondary school at the minimum – ideally through a bachelor’s degree. Teachers will be fairly compensated, on time. Schools will adequately and realistically prepare students for professional work in their home country. Vocational and managerial schools will be given equal importance.
Less developed countries will no longer have debilitating debt-overhang. A world without borrowing is not realistic, but the global-financial straitjacket of debt and conditional aid will have been eliminated. The global economy will be fair and equitable, with mutual respect among nations. The less-developed or less-rich countries will have fair opportunities to improve their lot, without predatory or defensive rules and regulations holding them down. War will be reserved as a tool to combat threats to humanitarian aid or dire national emergencies.
Finally and hopefully, my country, the United States, will be a responsible world citizen, aware and sensitive to the effect we have on others. There are kind, wonderful, and generous people from America, and a fact of which the rest of the world must always be reminded.

What values are inherent in this vision? Include, as appropriate, the moral or ethical basis for your vision.
Above all, life should be both equitable and enjoyable. We are all loved and special people who have unique talents and perspectives that are inherently valuable. Every individual has something to contribute to a discussion. All ideas should be respected and considered, if even for a moment. There are jokes and laughter in every language.
All people are equal. There is one happiness, one sadness, and one suffering. When I see a photo of a dead child in Darfur, I shed a tear, and I thank God that I was born where I was. There is no greater call than to serve others who are not as fortunate as I am. The wealthy and lucky have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate. Poverty in this day and age is inexcusable, and is usually brought about by corruption, poor institutions, and misguided political and social will on the part of the developed world. Developed countries can afford to eliminate extreme poverty. No one — no nation, ethnicity, gender, age group, religion, or interest group —should be left to suffer more than another. Suffering anywhere should be alleviated immediately, regardless of proximity to television cameras.
People deserve to be rewarded for hard work and playing by the rules. Every person has a right to education, good health, and fulfilling work. These rights can be compatible with sustainable environmental management, if economic growth is well managed. Governments have a responsibility to work for their constituents, to maintain an environment of opportunity and freedom.
After much personal deliberation and academic inquiry, it is clear to me that competitive and open economic integration between countries is important for raising living standards. However, open economic integration must be fair for each trading partner, and we must consider the effect our choices have on the environment. I believe in full-cost pricing, where we consider the environmental costs of making a particular decision. Still, some things are not for sale.
I believe in the power of private property — a system where people can own their property or their own capital, with a proper government maintaining a safe economic environment.

What practical principles will you use to operationalize this vision in your professional practice?
My family’s health and happiness comes before my career. I will be in a constant battle to maintain personal and professional balance. I will not be a martyr for development. Like my brothers and sisters in Doutouel, I also want to make a decent living and help my children make a good life for themselves. I would like to spend a sizeable part of my development career working overseas. My career decisions will above all take into consideration the effect they would have on my family. I will do the best I can when and where I can.
I will be honest about my strategic objectives and will work only for agencies that share them. I would like to work in a supportive and professional environment. I will not be afraid to share my opinions, but I am willing to work intensively to resolve disputes.
I will never stop learning; I accept that I will never know all the answers. Experience and circumstance will affect my judgment. My personal development philosophy will be constantly challenged and will evolve the rest of my life. I take my cue from Mintzberg’s “Learning School.”

What methods will you use to achieve this vision?
My development philosophy strategy will be based firmly in the learning school. It is important that we remain flexible and adaptable, and not bound by out-of-date dogma. No matter where I should stand in the hierarchy of the organization, I will always respect and be open to suggestions from above and below. However, it will be incumbent upon me to recognize where minor tinkering will not bring back a dead engine. Whatever results framework I am working in will have to maintain its logic, otherwise it should be reconsidered.
Ideally, all development objectives should be a win-win situation for all stakeholders. There must be sustainable positive incentives for the stakeholders to embrace the change. This should include, if necessary, extensive and exhaustive studies and surveys (using community maps, problem trees, future search, etc) of the host partners to ascertain the nature of their needs.
I will encourage colleagues to always look to the existing indigenous institutions before trying to create new ones. Too many times the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the stakeholders are ignored or minimized. It is important to ensure that ideas and concepts are being expressed to the stakeholders as eloquently and as appropriately as possible in the local languages, being sensitive to the host culture. Similarly, it will remain important that poverty reduction strategies be developed indigenously.

What standards, criteria or benchmark will you apply to hold yourself accountable for achieving your development vision?

These are the simple rules that I intend to follow:
• I will be a country director for a development organization one day, and I will be efficient, respectful, and professionally nurturing to my staff and subordinates.
• If I do not have institutional support, and I am in irreconcilable disagreement with those around me, I must transition. This is a rule that I do not anticipate coming up against often, as I intend to seek compromise, but I must try to realize when I need to move on.
• I will recognize when a host-country national can do it better, and I will be happy when I am trained out of a job. The goal is to help change behavior, to facilitate an improvement in the quality of life, and to move on to the next challenge.
• There must always be a grand framework, a la the Millennium Development goals. Our work should always feed into a plan, but we must remain patient. Development is often about small victories built up over time that reach critical mass when you least expect them.
• There is always more to be done. This is a journey without an end. Life is about service and supporting those around you.

  1. Hey Scott. Great site! Please keep us updated. Very simple question for you. It seems that Asia, especially China, is succeeding in becoming a world player, where Africa has failed in that regard. Government corruption is often blamed for Africa’s lack of progress. I know it’s not a simple as that, but what are the main factors to blame there. Thanks!


  2. Hey Scott! You see, your emails on DPMI list are being read! :)Hello after a long time..This is Hulya from DPMI. I wanted to say hi to you from a long distance, Turkey! Hope you can follow your development philosophy..Take care..


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