Rethinking the concept of development
We are slowly growing conscious that development is not tantamount to catch-up development of so-called underdeveloped regions and countries. In the crisis-ridden global village, development is increasingly taking place everywhere. There is, just to mention one example, a direct link between consumption and production patterns in rich regions and the development (or not) of poor regions. The debate on development has reached a turning point and the development community is confronted with a range of fundamental questions. Is the notion of development the right approach, technically and intellectually, or do we need a new “development thinking”? Is the dichotomy ‘North-South’ and the dividing of the world into a developed and underdeveloped part still adequate? How do we handle the diversity of live concepts, cultural expression? Where to define development, at global or local levels? Is development a linear process of growth leading from poverty to wealth or is it rather a cyclical procedure?
Questioning the myth of unlimited growth The current financial and debt crises, the food crisis and the growing struggle for natural resources are unmistakable signs that the prevailing model of unlimited growth is reaching its limits. More than this, it is incapable of providing suitable solutions to global challenges such as poverty, hunger, security or climate change. One thing that must give pause for thought is that it is the world’s poor and marginalized population groups who are the worst affected by global crises, raw material shortages and climate change. We are therefore faced with the paradox whereby the world is indeed changing radically but not the development paradigm that still seeks to meet global challenges with unrestricted and resource-intensive growth. In all parts of the world more and more voices are calling for a radical shift away from the neoliberal “paradigm of consumptionomics” and towards an “economy of life”, affirming the wholeness of life, embedded in community relationship and being based on a lifestyle of solidarity, justice and inclusion.
Searching for transformative alternatives
What are now alternative paths of development delivering justice, social equity and sustainability. There is no shortage of counterproposals. In all regions there are other life concepts to which the basic needs of people are central, not just the monetary needs of the Homo Economicus. We are aware of many examples in all world regions of community management of the so called commons based on a commitment to sustainability and therefore having nothing to do with profit maximization or the market logic whereby the invisible hand supposedly optimizes all the benefits accruing to individuals and national economies. In an initial phase of the dialogue we will attempt primarily to learn from the diversity of alternative life concepts. Each model of transformation is ultimately based on narratives. At a subsequent stage, analyse whether at best a meta-narrative can be derived.
Doing the right things … and doing things right
In keeping with the "theory of change", we interpret all forms of evolution or transformation as the outcome of a chain of effects. We understand transformation as a process that can only be made directional if it is understood holistically and approached in an integrative manner. Analysing this world’s challenges in order to derive visions from them and propose alternative paths to solutions is only a first step towards change. It is just as important to question our own actions as well as the thinking and assumptions on which we expressly and implicitly base them. Is our work in fact achieving the things to which we aspire? Do we have the right strategies and adequate tools as „actors of change"? Can we actually live up to the aspiration of operating in partnership and interactively? We will be examining such questions regarding the "how" as much as those concerning the "what", because transformative processes spring from thought as well as from action.
Framing the issues
The platform's initiators consider the search for relevant questions as an integral part of the dialogue. They therefore do not impose predefined subject areas or issues for discussion. Yet in the very broad subject area of "Development and transformation", three overarching questions should provide some guidance:
(i) What do we mean by development and what development do we want?
(ii) Where should the development or transformation paradigm to be moved to, by whom, and how?
(iii) What are we learning from alternative life concepts (narratives)?
These key questions constitute the thematic framework for exchange and joint reflection. The stated intention, however, is not to pursue a meta-discussion that is disconnected from reality but to explore issues that are meaningful in different contexts. Accordingly, discussion forums are being created on specific subject areas. The insights gained should grow into a whole like pieces of a puzzle and bring us closer to answering the three "overarching questions".