Development Studies Matter! Framing an Evolving Field of Study in Changing Times

By Susanne von Itter

EADI has published a definition of Development Studies? Why yet another definition? Can such a broad field of studies be defined anyway? EADI finds: Yes!

“Development Studies (also known as ‘international development studies’ or ‘international development’) is a multi- and inter-disciplinary field of study rather than a single discipline. It seeks to understand the interplay between social, economic, political, technological, ecological, cultural and gendered aspects of societal change at the local, national, regional and global levels.”

The definition not only explains EADI’s understanding of development studies, but also formulates learning and teaching objectives, as well as learning objectives for students.

The range of concerns – to name only a few – includes poverty, inequality and exclusion, environmental sustainability and climate change, global governance; armed conflict and violence, urbanization, rural development, land tenure and agrarian change, migrations, health, education, labour, and gender equity.

Adapting to global challenges

As an association of development research institutes, we saw the need to reframe the definition of development studies, because important changes occurred in the past 15 years. On the one hand, the Bologna Declaration changed institutional frameworks in the world of education and research. On the other hand, Development Studies need to consider main changes in global development processes, such as:

  • A stronger role of cooperating regional powers in the developing world, for example the BRICS group of states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).
  • The participation of new players, new sources of funds, new initiatives in the system of aid and development finance.
  • The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and UN goal setting as a way to address global problems with global tools.
  • The emergence of new economic and political power relations, and changes generated by globalisation – including the increase in migration, which makes marginalisation and deprivation manifest both in the South and the North.

Development studies is an evolving field of study and the range of concerns it addresses and the methods it uses evolve over time. Concrete examples are an increasing interplay between social and ‘hard’ sciences and the emergence of novel topics such as South-South cooperation, poverty and social exclusion in industrialized countries, technological innovation, and private sector actors in international development.

Practical use

The new definition also serves as a guide to the evaluation and accreditation of Master programmes set up by institutes. It also inspires universities to create new Master programmes, and is used by institutes to argue for the need of development studies, to establish this field of study in a country, or to defend programmes in danger.

Further reading

The results of intensive discussions within EADI and further research on the topic will be published in a volume entitled “Development Studies in the New Millennium”, forthcoming early 2019.

This book brings together multiple critical assessments of the current state and future visions of global development studies. It examines how the field engages with new paradigms and narratives, methodologies and scientific impact, and perspectives from the Global South. The authors focus on social and democratic transformation, inclusive development and global environmental issues, and implications for research practices. Leading academics provide an excellent overview of recent insights for post-graduate students and scholars in these research areas.

The discussion goes on

Please feel invited to comment on the definition and share your opinion with us on this blog!

Susanne von Itter is the Executive Secretary of EADI

One Reply to “Development Studies Matter! Framing an Evolving Field of Study in Changing Times”

  1. EADI says, “Development Studies (also known as ‘international development studies’ or ‘international development’) is a multi- and inter-disciplinary field of study rather than a single discipline. It seeks to understand the interplay between social, economic, political, technological, ecological, cultural and gendered aspects of societal change at the local, national, regional and global levels.”
    Let me invite EADI to consider another approach.
    Here I introduce an outline of MetaIntegral’s MetaImpact Framework.
    The MetaImpact Framework works with not just a “single bottom line” financial monocapitalism, nor with just a “triple bottom line” (economic, social, environmental) form of capitalism, but with an integrative multi-dimensional multicapitalism (with up to ten capitals: knowledge, psychological, spiritual, health, human, manufactured, financial, natural, cultural, and social). The MetaImpact Framework makes visible four types of impact (clear, high, deep, wide) monitored with three types of data (generated with subjective first-person, intersubjective second-person, and objective third-person metrics).
    The MetaImpact Framework, in sum, attempts to envision and works to create a wisdom economy that values wisely and serves compassionately four bottom lines (people, profit, planet, and purpose).
    Now, if we compare EADI’s view of development with this MetaIntegral view of development, what do we find?
    EADI tends to include objective third-person dimensions of “the interplay between social, economic, political, technological, ecological, cultural and gendered aspects of societal change at the local, national, regional and global levels.”
    EADI tends to ignore subjective first-person and intersubjective second-person dimensions of “the interplay between social, economic, political, technological, ecological, cultural and gendered aspects of societal change at the local, national, regional and global levels.”
    For more information, a basic introductory outline of subjective first-person, intersubjective second-person, and objective third-person issues is available at Academia.edu in my paper, Exploring Mount Thriveability.

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