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John Roughan: Development? It's A Journey!

Development? It's A Journey!

By John Roughan
25 July 2005

Big Men who study science say that Albert Einstein's ability to use word-pictures, e.g. moving train, large wall clock, etc. to explain the nature of light, made a big difference. This made his theories on the subject of relativity clearer to the rest of us. All the mathematical formula of the day weren't doing it.

Perhaps those of us working on the development issue should use word pictures as well to get our thinking across. Such picture-thinking might make the idea of what development is all about a bit clearer to the typical village person. At least speaking in pictures shouldn't be any worse than all the words running abound the Solomons at this time.

The whole development issue may be best understood as a journey, moving from one place to another, by a people travelling from the place called--'unable to do something' to another place called, 'able now to do it'. Of course to physically travel from one place to another,--from Honiara back to one's village, for instance--a person needs some kind of vehicle--car, truck, bus, bicycle, ship, canoe, etc. etc. If the trip, for instance, is by sea, then a ship or canoe is called for. But no one in their right mind says that the ship--or car, truck, bus, etc--no matter how powerful, beautiful and big really is the same thing as making the journey. It is, however, a useful tool, a way of making the trip.

So many villagers, town people and development workers, however, think that if they build a community centre, a clinic, school house, etc. then that's development. What is being said here is that a community centre building on its own is development. But how can that be? If it is true that development means anything, it means that persons change, they become able to do new things, are more informed, better able to handle conflict, more able to organize and many other things.

Erecting a new building could be a great start. Having people working together, pooling ideas, work patterns and enthusiasm to change their own lives, is what is meant by development. Cement, iron, timber, electric fittings, etc. that go into a new building should be signs that something else is happening to the minds and hearts of people who are most interested in the new community hall, clinic, school building, etc.

Simply talking about development, however, doesn't make much of a difference to people either. No, most of us need the physical effort, work patterns and discipline of creating something outside ourselves to produce change within our own lives and the lives of others. That is a major reason why development workers, funding groups and government itself work hard to see change on the ground--roads, bridges, buildings, plantations, etc. These changes, although they are usually called development, are but tools to help people change for the better. Development is about people. It's not about things. It's not about money! Material changes within the country should mean that people are becoming more informed, know more and have begun to understand better the meaning of development. But the things themselves, no matter how costly, how beautiful and how useful, are not development but should be leading to it.

These new constructions are useful tools to generate change, to move people from not cooperating with each other, to groups of people working together. The community hall, for instance, then, could become a vital tool which enhances cooperation and people working together. This same thing goes for a village group which works hard to establish its own clinic. A bare bones clinic without medicines, dedicated nurse and doing hard work is where the real action takes place. The building itself is but an instrument, a tool, where development of people's ideas of sickness, wellness and health are the focus of development. A dead building on its own means little unless some vital work goes on inside its four walls.

Parents speak of sending their children to school. No one means by this that the child who arrives at a classroom, enters the building and sits there for five hours a day is going to change simply by sitting in a building. No, parents realise that with the help of a teacher guiding the students to use his own eyes, ears and body will go from unable to read to the ability to read, will travel from the inability to hold a pencil to draw and write with it, to move from confused thinking to clear thinking.

Development, therefore, is really about a journey. Many times it's a hard, difficult one with plenty of hard times but it should be one where the person and the group grow, become more and have a greater handle on their lives. A building, road, ship, truck, piggery, etc. can be powerful tools to help us on the journey. But they themselves are never development on their own. They require personal effort over a good period of time to become successful.


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