Beyond poverty alleviation?
I just read a post by Efosa Ojomo, a Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation (what a great name!), that argued for a shift in thinking from poverty to prosperity. What if the alleviation of poverty is the wrong problem that development aid is trying to tackle? He says that we have, for too long, thought of poverty as the lack of resources, and therefore the solution to be the provision of resources. This doesn’t actually lead to prosperity–to people having a prosperous and good life. He lists a number of examples that show how providing some resource according to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) doesn’t make a difference. Case in point: to ensure water and sanitation for all (SDG 6), the Indian government started a campaign to provide toilets to more than 60 million households by 2019. But two years and 10 million toilets later, not many people are using them. The Indian government is even considering paying people to use the toilets!
The eradication of poverty is not the same as the creation of prosperity… The theory that poverty is a resource problem cannot answer both questions. In fact, creating prosperity is a process problem, not a resource problem… A process is the way people use their resources. For example, if I had $100 (a resource) and I chose to purchase alcohol to feed my habit (a process), the impact of that resource on my life would be vastly different than if I chose to invest it in starting a small business. Same resource, different processes, different impact. In order to create prosperity, development practitioners and programmes such as the SDGs must focus on fostering processes.
The emphasis on process and people’s actions resonates with anthropological perspectives. and I see myself nodding to the proposition. But if the target of intervention should be the buying of alcohol (stop him from doing that), in the example above, isn’t this a form of governmentality? What does prosperity mean to different people, anyways?
What do you think?