What IS Development?

I’ll be honest, I got a little annoyed with the results of my google search on this subject. Most of the sites I got to (including this potentially great one from the world bank targeted to primary school children) all basically said the same thing; Development is about rich countries giving money to poor countries to help them become rich countries. Some were full of buzzwords like sustainability and economic mobility. Some were sappy, some were dry and some were downright condescending. Most were pretty oversimplified. And none of them, for me, captured what I think development is all about.

Development to me, is about releasing potential energy. Like a drawn bow, or a loaded spring, or just an arm pulled back to throw something, developing communities (whether they’re in Bamako or Boston) are FULL of potential energy—they vibrate with it. But there are things about living there that prevent this force, this generative energy, from being released.

Development to me, is about helping individuals, communities and nations break barriers and create channels to release the generative, creative potential energy stored up inside them so they can contribute their wisdom, their ingenuity, their resources, their skill and their passion to making the world freer, healthier, stronger and more beautiful.

Development isn’t about GDP or household income or even life expectancy. Development is about empowering people to contribute, to create and to change. It’s about doing whatever it takes to provide a person or a nation the freedom and the tools to shape their own future.

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