It is impossible to look at something without conceptual lenses. This also holds true for the way in which one looks at rural development, in particular if one wants to reflect upon strategies to promote more beneficial alternative pathways. This paper therefore introduces a normative and an analytical framework for conceptualizing the development of rural territories. It was developed as a collective effort within the long-term institutional cooperation of the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB, University of Antwerp) and its Nicaraguan partner the Instituto Nitlapan-UCA (Universidad Centroamericana) as part of a VLIR-UOS sponsored project that aimed to support Nitlapan-UCA in its strategy to reposition itself as a university-based service delivery organization within broader rural territorial dynamics. The inspiration for the normative and analytical framework comes from a variety of theoretical sources. These are patched together in order to generate a conceptual lens that provides an actor-oriented, relational view on the criteria to judge development in rural territories which is subsequently connected to a more operational understanding of development as the dynamic emergent outcome of complex interactive processes between a multitude of actors in the institutional realms of ideas, rules and social networks.
We locate our contribution to this reflection in the field that Flyvbjerg (2006), following the Greek philosopher Aristotle, calls phronesis. Contrary to episteme, which refers to scientific-analytical knowledge (and generates “sure and certain” knowledge), and techne, which indicates more practical know-how, phronesis is a “true state, reasoned, and capable of action with regard to things that are good or bad for man” (Aristotle, quoted in Flyvbjerg, 2006, p.370). Phronesis is located in the field of human values and social action and interaction, and seeks to contribute to an ethical practice, i.e. to what in moral and practical aspects constitutes what is “good” for human beings. With this ambition, an explicit ethical reflection is needed to develop the framework with which we will try to identify what is “good” for people. This is the objective of the first part of this paper. Starting from the known and renowned human capabilities approach inspired by Amartya Sen’s theory, we develop a relational vision of the capabilities with which to evaluate the processes and results of human development. After this ethical positioning, a second part will attempt to assemble a heuristic framework from different theoretical inspirations that could serve as a prism to analyze and interpret rural development pathways. Faithful to our ethics framework, this prism ought to be a practical one, opening spaces for a different positioning so as to act in interrelation with these processes. Finally, we discuss the consequences for the positioning of development organizations like Nitlapan-UCA in the concluding paragraphs.
Download 2015.04 J. Bastiaensen, P. Merlet, M. Craps, T. De Herdt, S. Flores, F. Huybrechs, S. Flores, G. Steel and G. Van Hecken | Making sense of territorial pathways to rural development: a proposal for a normative and analytical framework