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Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Management in Rural Development

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Most of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, a situation which is not expected to change for some years, despite rapid urbanisation. This means that working to alleviate poverty in rural areas remains critical to the achievement of global and national goals for poverty alleviation.

Sound policy is required to alleviate poverty in rural areas. In turn this needs to be implemented through, or perhaps complemented by, programmes and projects that deliver goods and services to rural people. This module is thus about the management of rural development activities and of the organisations which are involved in implementing these activities.

Such organisations might be public sector, private sector or non-governmental. However, particular emphasis is placed on the challenges of managing public sector organisations. The sister module P532 NGO Management considers the particular challenges of managing non-governmental organisations. (Whilst there is inevitably some overlap in subject matter between these two modules, the difference in emphasis means that it could be profitable for some students to study both).

The module draws on mainstream management theory, which in general has emerged from the study of large commercial enterprises operating in developed economies. One of the themes running throughout the module, therefore, is the question of how (if at all) to apply the insights from this theoretical literature to the challenges facing managers working in rural areas of low-income countries. The module considers the practical difficulties of working and managing staff in large areas with poor transport and communications, the impact of cultural differences, and the particular challenges presented by the nature of rural development tasks (striving for social goals rather than profit, the complexity of the rural development challenge and hence the need for cooperation across organisations, and so on).

It also pays particular attention to the question of performance incentives at organisational level, as these in turn drive the incentives faced by managers and their staff within the organisation. Such incentives can be taken for granted by much mainstream management theory, given its focus on commercial organisations working to satisfy shareholder interests in markets that are increasingly globalised and thus often highly competitive. By contrast, performance incentives for public sector and non-government organisations are more complex: they may be weak or strong and may encourage or discourage those organisations from responding to the real needs of (poor) rural people.

Managers or aspiring managers in all types of organisations engaged in rural development – government departments, international development agencies, NGOs or private businesses – should find this module useful. As a result of studying this module, students should understand the particular challenges confronting managers in rural development and be equipped with knowledge and tools to tackle them.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of the module students will be able to:

  • examine critically the distinctive nature of rural development tasks and the environment in which they take place, and assess their implications for the work of rural development managers
  • examine critically why the rural poor are often marginalized and how this problem can be overcome
  • outline and compare critically major organisational and management theories and to appraise their relevance to management in rural development
  • describe and critique alternative approaches and methods for the management of human resources, finance, information and organisational change within a rural development context
  • evaluate constraints to the performance of public sector organisations in rural development and interpret the scope that managers at different levels have to improve such performance.

Scope and syllabus

Part I

Unit 1 introduces some basic concepts relating to management and considers the objectives and drivers of performance for different types of organisations. Unit 2 considers the way in which the tasks of rural development management are distinctive, reviews different approaches to rural development and poverty reduction that have been pursued in recent decades and examines particular challenges of operating in a poor, rural environment. Unit 3 looks at why it is often so difficult to reach the rural poor and at ways of giving the poor greater voice in rural development activities.

Part II

Unit 4 introduces management and organisation theory and considers its relevance for managers in rural development. The following units explores a number of skill areas which all managers will be involved in to some extent, including managing human resources (Unit 5), managing finances (Unit 6) managing information (Unit 7) and managing change (Unit 8). In all cases mainstream management theory is considered alongside rural development practice and experience.

Part III

Unit 9 looks at two recent approaches to reforming the state: so-called new public management and decentralisation reforms. Unit 10 explores political economy theory to gain an initial understanding of the political roots of incentives facing public sector organisations. Students who enjoy this unit may also consider taking P527 Political Economy of Public Policy to explore such issues in more depth.

Module sample

P531 module uses a core text which is specially written and will take you through your self-directed study. Exercises, assignments and other activities, such as self-assessment questions, film clips and animations are included to help you with learning. Most module study guides are now provided in electronic format on a USB flash memory stick, but can also be downloaded from the online learning environment. Click the linked image below to view a sample of our e-study guide: