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Unit Summary

This unit has introduced you to the concept of development, providing a number of different conceptual frameworks that should help you to think about the goals and processes of development.

Section 1: What is development?

The unit began by reviewing some of the broader ideas surrounding this complex and contested concept, including those relating to economic growth, human development, sustainable development, and the Millennium Development Goals. A distinction was made between development goals and the processes of achieving them, recognising that whilst there is much agreement on the former, there is far less agreement on the latter.

Section 2: Livelihoods

The concept of livelihoods was introduced as a useful starting point for examining how success or failure in achieving development goals manifests itself. In this section we examined the much used 'livelihoods framework' - household livelihoods are broken down into assets, strategies, outcomes, and the various factors, such as institutions, shocks, and trends, that influence these. We also highlighted the importance of gender issues in livelihood analysis and drew attention to the risks of treating the household as a unitary decision-making unit.

Section 3: Livelihoods and development

In this section we conceptualised livelihoods and the economies of which they are a part as 'hanging in', 'stepping up', and 'stepping out', with the latter two being necessary to build the asset base or pillars of development upon which economic development rests. Individual livelihoods, and hence the economies they compose, are linked by processes of competition and co-operation. The balance that is struck between these two processes determines the levels of social organisation at which development takes place, and the relative vulnerability and prosperity of individuals at each level.

Section 4: Institutions and co-ordination

The unit concluded with a brief introduction to the concept of institutions and co-ordination and the way they are interlinked. We defined institutions as 'the rules and organisations that govern social and economic relationships and associated human interactions', thereby including the formal laws of the state, social customs, and ideologies, as well as the systems and organisations associated with gift exchange, markets and hierarchies. Institutions govern the way co-ordination takes place and appropriate institutional design is of central importance in development.