What Is Development?


The development sector focuses on the economic improvement of a nation, region or local community. For example, it can include work to improve the quality of food, housing, employment opportunities, sanitation and health services, education, and economic and social infrastructure. Often, this type of work is done by international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. These organizations raise money from financial markets and provide low-interest loans to developing countries. Development can also be done at a local level by non-governmental or not-for-profit organizations (NGOs).

While there is no universal definition of development, many theorists agree that it involves economic growth and social progress. Economic growth can be measured by the rate of increase in a country’s per capita income. Social progress is often measured by a country’s human development index, which takes into account life expectancy, literacy rates and school enrollment.

Active versus passive: Some theorists believe that humans play an active role in their own development. For example, Piaget argued that children actively explore their environments and construct new ways of understanding their experiences. Others, like behaviorists and information processing theorists, believe that humans are largely passive in their developmental process, shaped by their genes, environment, and experiences.

Development is a dynamic, complex phenomenon. It is important to recognize that the development of people and societies is constantly evolving. Furthermore, much of what is currently understood about development is culturally bound and therefore difficult to apply across cultures.