Corporate Social Responsibility

If the business of business is business, why should corporations be involved with development?

Creative Commons: Oxfam

Creative Commons: Oxfam

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is defined differently by different development analysts. In this post I will explore some different ideas and some of the criticism.

Hopkins (2007) says CSR is about the way that profit is made. He says that if a corporation is only concerned with making a profit it will not realise its potential. Successful business reduces unemployment. It can do all kinds of good for society from ensuring there is primary and secondary education available for all and helping to offer resources to tackle the major diseases in the world.

With CSR a company can enhance its reputation, attract and motivate employees, reduce risks in developing countries (where it may have suppliers) and ensure the sustainability of its own operations. If consumers earn decent wages, they can purchase what they produce. The private sector can assist governments in improving well-being.

Rajak (2011) calls CSR compassionate capitalism and defines it as “a movement promising to harness the global reach and resources of transnational corporations in the service of local development and social improvement”. She says business leaders now consider themselves “guardians of the social order”. Commerce is now tied to community, enterprise linked with the social. But Rajak says its important to look back at what as come before. Is CSR new?

Case Study: Founder of the De Beers diamond empire, Cecil Rhodes

In under 10 years Cecil Rhodes either invaded or brought British imperial authority to bear over a region over 3 times the size of France. He was born in 1853 and moved to South Africa from England to recover from an illness when he was a teenager. In the 1870s he founded a diamond business and found time to get a degree from Oxford University by travelling back and forth. He managed to get control of a region covering modern day Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. By 1888, he controlled the entire South African diamond industry, which meant 90% of world production, through De Beers. He was one of the world richest men and entered politics.

At first Rhodes would share meals with the African workers and stay with them in their huts, but as he increased in power and racist attitudes became dominant in England, he became more of a dictator. He dreamed of a white controlled Africa and enforced segregation. He bought the most popular newspaper to make sure his views were heard. Before long he had adopted the racist policies of the Afrikaners in their most extreme form.

Although he is perhaps the largest figure in British colonial history, Rhodes has received surprisingly little dramatic attention. The scriptwriter of the BBC’s ‘Rhodes’, Anthony Thomas, offers a possible explanation:

“We turn our backs on him historically because he is too embarrassing to deal with. Hitler described him as the only Englishman who truly understood Anglo- Saxon ideals and destiny. It is too chilling to think of how Hitler empathised with him.”

By failing to comprehend the perspective of indigenous people a violent rebellion took place in 1896-7. It became clear how important it is for big businesses, that were changing towns and thousands of lives, to have a much better understanding of local concerns and beliefs.

Corporate led expansion is still thought to be brutal with ruthless crushing of indigenous cultures by many in the global south. In order to be able to go into a place and extract its recources, you need to become popular. This can be done by building schools and forming relationships with people in the area. In this light, CSR is about security and bribery. (Litvin, 2003, Empires of Profit)

This raises the question, for what and for whom does business exist?

Blowfield (2005) says CSR has not only influenced businesses, it has also influenced development itself. “Business thinking has dominated the way we think about the world and has become the norm against which everything else is tested for true and false value”.

CSR spreads the values of capitalism:

  • the right to make a profit
  • the supremacy of private property
  • the commoditisation of things
  • the superiority of markets in determining price and value

Areas and communities that previously held different values are now persuaded that these principles are logical and the right way to live. Land that is considered sacred by a community is to be viewed as a ‘untapped resource’. Capitalist logic says all land should be used to maximise profits.

Keeping these views in mind, it becomes clear that corporations are economic, political and social actors.


Celebrities: bridging the gap?


I spent 12 weeks working as media and communications assistant at Sightsavers, an non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Haywards Heath, Sussex. The communication-team held the view that the majority of people living in the UK don’t identify with politicians or show interest in international development. The majority of the staff at Sightsavers want to change this and believe celebrities aid the process. Many of the staff, who work to influence change in governmental decisions on foreign aid, told me that they think it is vital that the public begin to understand the causes of global poverty.

Sightsavers’ press team believe that the most effective way of attracting the attention of the UK public is to supply national media outlets with content that includes a person in the public eye (who is well-liked) showing an interest in tackling global poverty. It is thought that this will encourage the public to do the same and begin to engage with the politics of international development. The main objective for using celebrities is to make international stories compelling and accessible in the hope of attracting new audiences. It is also thought that support from high profile people raises Sightsavers reputation as a credible organisation. The team expects celebrities to raise funds, but only as temporary one off donations.

“A much-loved and respected celebrity has the ability to influence not only his or her own fans but also opinion formers – the politicians and policy makers who we are trying to make sit up and take notice. 

Of course, choosing the right star name can be a bit of a minefield; we need to be sure that anyone acting as a Sightsavers ambassador and role model is genuinely passionate about our work. 

That’s why we prefer to work with figureheads who either have a first-hand experience of what it is to be blind… of our programme work (such as Lorraine Kelly…), or of one of the countries where we work” (Sightsavers, 2014a).

There are reports and research from 2007-2012 which dispute this argument. This research contain data on: public support for foreign aid, public interest in global poverty and public engagement with celebrities. Couldry & Markham (2007) suggest that people with high levels of interest in celebrity culture show little interest in politics and are the least likely to vote or campaign. Brockington (2011) demonstrates that celebrity culture is prominent however, the majority of the public are not particularly engaged. He argues that celebrity advocacy is populist in appeal, but not very popular.

However, Inthorn & Street (2011) take the argument that citizens may not respond to all celebrities in the same way. Their research demonstrates that it is an error to treat celebrities as a homogeneous group. They contend that celebrities who pursue political causes that are close to individuals’ hearts are – in theory – an alternative to a system which the UK public distrust. Celebrities seemed “the more genuine and trustworthy politicians” (Inthorn & Street, 2011, p. 4). This argument seems to support the view held in the press team at Sightsavers, but is it accurate?

The UK Public Opinion Monitor (Institute of Development Studies & The University of Guelph, 2012) aims to understand how everyday citizens see the world in which we live, and if or how attitudes change over time. Focussing on attitudes towards famous people, celebrities and their work in the public domain, 2,842 respondents (broadly representing the British public) had limited engagement with celebrity magazines and celebrity television programmes, with greater than 50% saying they avoid them.

Rojek (2001) distinguishes between types of celebrities and identifies three categories: ascribed greatness (royalty) achieved renown (highly-achieving athletes) and attributed glory (media/reality TV stars). David Attenborough and Lenny Henry can be used as examples of people in the public eye who hold some moral authority for their involvement with fundraising but are not obviously on the ‘celebrity circuit’ (Darnton & Kirk, 2011).

Sightsavers press team held the view that potential celebrity supporters could only be approached if the public respected them. They needed to be understood as famous and credible. A famous person that Sightsavers press team was enthusiastic about approaching was Lorraine Kelly. In 2012 Kelly was awarded an OBE for her services to charity (Kelly, 2014). Kelly is a Scottish TV presenter and a journalist and having worked with her multiple times (Sightsaver 2014b), Sightsavers contacted her during the application process for the BBC Radio 4 appeal. The Radio 4 appeal is a weekly programme that highlights the work of a charity and appeals for donations (BBC, 2014). Sightsavers applied with two objectives: (1) to raise awareness of Sightsavers and promote it as a credible organization to Radio 4 listeners, and (2) to raise at least £15,000 in donations from the appeal (Sightsavers, 2014c). In the appeal application it states that charities need to contact a presenter. The presenter must donate their time for free and as part of the application each charity has to suggest a list of presenters and why they would like them to read the script (BBC, 2014).

In the project briefing notes there were some points of consideration:

“Its important for the celeb to have a personal connection to the charity/cause so their voice is emotive.

Don’t approach anyone before discussing the long list with the producer

Don’t be afraid to chase agents, they won’t be too proactive given they’re not making any ££…

Give short deadlines for reply date (2 weeks max) so you can chase them when they don’t reply. Approach them one at a time so we don’t have to turn people down!” (Sightsavers, 2014c)

Kelly was the first person on Sightsavers’ list. It was a priority for them to have a celebrity presenter who had seen Sightsavers’ trachoma projects in Kenya, as this was what they wanted the public to engage with. Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection of the eye, causing inflammation and irritation on the inner surface of the lids (Sightsavers, 2014d). A colleague said:

“She is… our ambassador, which is a bit stronger than just a supporter; she is well known and well-liked… and has a …voice that most listeners would recognise even if they missed her introduction” (Sightsavers, 2014e).

In the project brief, this was written

“Research has shown that Scottish and Irish accents for voice-overs are more likely to encourage listeners to donate to broadcast appeals” (Sightsavers, 2014c).

It also said that Kelly could promote listening to the appeal to her 460,000 Twitter followers.

Rather than broadcasting widely, Kelly was asked to promote Sightsavers’ work to a specific audience of her fan community and regular Radio 4 listeners (Sightsavers, 2014f). The message communicated was: Sightsavers is a leader in the prevention and treatment of trachoma and Kelly is a supporter, so Sightsavers must be a credible organisation. Sightsavers overall objective of using a famous person in this way is to contribute to the larger process of societal change. However, when it comes to evalutating, as Brockington (2014a) argues, it is extremely difficult to measure whether this one celebrity appeal could help enagage the public and have a lasting impact on society’s behaviour.

(This is part of a much longer paper, there is a bibliography! Please contact me if you’d like more information.)

Social media and political action

Social Media

The world’s networked population has grown from millions to billions since the rise of the internet in the early 1990s (Shirky 2011). The world’s population now covered by a mobile phone signal is almost 90 per cent, and nearly 40 per cent have Internet access (IDS 2013).

“The explosion of social networking and the ubiquity of affordable digital technology that allows people to document, capture and create visual imagery is unprecedented. It has created a multitude of new ways for people to access and engage with information and with other people” (IDS 2013).

It is argued that the internet reduces the costs of social and political engagement which promotes political development worldwide. Through the internet, individuals are able to easily learn about government policies and actions, develop networks, connect with community, exchange information and establish shared norms (Shirky 2008 and Skoric, Ying and Ng 2009). Gleason (2013) argues that social media sites, such as Twitter, are information-sharing communities that support participation in social movements. Twitter can play an important role in facilitating the exchange of multiple perspectives, especially news related. News is now a communications ecosystem, occupied by a mix of individuals, informal collectives and formal organisations. User-generated content allows the voiceless to have voice (Gleason 2013 and Shirky 2008).


It is now possible for any citizen in possession of a mobile phone to post media online within seconds of an event’s occurrence at low cost. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook allow for instantaneous distribution of content. (Stevenson and Webster 2001). Social scientists have used the Zapatistas’ uprising as an example of this sort of effective social-networking reaching people worldwide (Atton 2003, Laer & Van Aelst 2010). In 1994 the Zapatistas started a local project of resistance. Their demands were for more rights and autonomy for the indigenous people of Chiapas in the rainforest region of southern Mexico. The Zapatistas used an international communications medium. This won support and recognition from all over the globe (Laer & Van Aelst 2010). Online coverage gained sympathy from those who were struggling against neoliberal globalization. It was now possible to inform others in distant places of their political communication and organisation methods. Anti-capitalist groups from different regions were able to collaborate with the Zapatistas as solidarity groups. They created networks where they could publish about their protsests. This led to the Indymedia network (The Independent Media Centre) (Atton 2003).

Indymedia became prominent during the demonstrations in Seattle in the USA in 1999. On 30th November demonstrations took place against the World Trade Organization Summit meeting. As well as a physical presence in Seattle, the anti-capitalism movement had an effective online presence. Audio and video footage as well as written reports were distributed over the internet and across the world.

Hundreds of hours of audio and video footage and hundreds of thousands of eyewitness reports, analyses and commentary became available to activists, supporters, detractors—to ‘global citizens’ at large” (Atton 2003:7).

This is significant as this growing online communication is enabling people in different countries and continents to: interact, influence each other and make decisions together. Social Media allowed a diverse range of activists, groups and social movement organizations to loosely knit together and coalesce in coordinated actions against the WTO summit both offline, in the streets, as well as online (Laer & Van Aelst 2010).

For social networks like IndyMedia “amateur journalists…report from the ‘front line’, from the grassroots, from within the movements and communities they thus come to represent. At this more specific level of journalistic practice, the principles of self-management, organizational and ideological independence, and prefigurative politics are played out in what we can think of as ‘native reporting’” (Atton 2003:10). This has fundamentally changed the reach of movements. However, stated on the publish page on Indy Media’s website is ‘while we struggle to maintain the news wire as a completely open forum we do monitor it and remove posts’ (IndyMedia 2003).

Freedom of speech is a difficult right to take away. One issue with extended reach is that many ideological groups (anything from violent political organizations to teen annorexia support groups) all use these same social-networks. It is difficult to close down individual discussion groups and blogs. Shirky (2011) argues that there needs to be a virtual police presence to keep a virtual community safe. But, do we always agree with police decisions or can this disempower activists?

In autocratic states, facebook is banned. The Chinese can only use Qzone, Iranians can only use Cloob and Vietnamese can only use Zing. These sites are government monitored and domestically developed. This prevents them from growing into online centres of alternative political expression, here the governments use the internet to control stories (The Economist 2010). Access to information is far less important politically than access to conversation (Shirky 2011). “Periodic arrests of dissidents caught posting things they had believed to be anonymous help propagate a society-wide chilling effect on political discussion, and a sense that one is better off sticking to flirting… and other entertaining and risk-free online pursuits” (The Economist 2010:1). In the most extreme cases, the use of social media tools is a matter of life and death. Hossein Derakhshan from Iran has a propsed death sentence for his blogging (Shirky 2011). Online reach has limitations.


Movements make strategic use of social media for various counter-hegemonic purposes. This includes disrupting dominant discourses and identities, critiqing existing social and material conditions and articulating alternatives. Corporate control of public communication is short-circuited (Carroll and Hackett 2006).“By implication, power is no longer concentrated in a materially dominant class; it is dispersed across the diverse fields of the social”(Carroll and Hackett 2006:94).

Shirky (2008,2011) argues, alternate media networks and social media, outside the purview of governments and traditional media corporations, open new possibilities for opposition voices to be heard. It is widely agreed in the literature that under the old media model, news was typically produced, vetted and distributed by a single entity. The democratic deficits in a corporate dominant, highly commercialised media system include inequalities of access, representation and power. This system allows patterns of hierarchies and exclusion to be reinforced. For example, ‘free market’ policy institutes monitor media to prevent journalistic deviation from their neoliberal agenda. (Atton 2003, Carroll and Hackett 2006, Carroll and Ratner 1999, Nanabhay and Farmanfarmaian 2011). In the new information environment, these functions are being disaggregated. Existing regimes of power and knowledge can be disrupted, decentering the power of the previously powerful media in the public sphere (Atton 2003, Caroll & Hackett 2006, Carroll and Ratner 1999, IDS 2013, Nanabhay & Farmanfarmaian 2011, Van Laer & Van Aelst 2010).

Shirky (2008) argues that social media does increase the power of impassioned social movements because the voiceless can now participate in political discussion. Like Gleason (2013) and Skoric Ying and NG (2009), Shirky’s key point is that social media websites allow for impromptu organisations. These are harbingers of a future society that can self-organise without formal hierarchies. A wider group of people can now contribute to discussions. However this perspective is contested. Does simply enabling more people to connect and access information automatically make them zealous activists? Gladwell identifies a crucial distinction between the power of traditional activism to the power of social media. Gladwell contends online relationships have weak-ties. Effective and powerful social movements require strong-tie relationships meaning a high degree of personal connection to the movement in order to be resilient in the face of attack. While social media makes it easier for activists to express themselves and find like-minded people, “activism that challenges the status quo—that attacks deeply rooted problems—is not for the faint of heart” (Gladwell 2010:3). He concludes internet activists cannot transform society in the same way that a powerful movement like the US Civil Rights movements did. He concentrates on casual participants who seek social change through low-cost activities, such as joining a facebook campaign, that show no real-world action.

Shirky (2011) responded to Gladwell’s critique. “The critique is correct but not central to the question of social media’s power; the fact that barely committed actors cannot click their way to a better world does not mean that committed actors cannot use social media effectively” (Shirky 2011:1). He argues that social networks make it remarkably easier and cheaper to coordinate massive and rapid responses to arranged protests. Protest movements use social media as a way to coordinate real-world action not as a replacement for it. Shirky goes further, saying adopting these tools as a way to coordinate and document real-world action via mobile phones will be a part of all future political movements. For those citizens who are earnest for change, social media assists them. Gladwell’s (2011) response offers a significant consideration; Shirky has not proven that uprisings are impossible without social media. The power of social movements has not been fundamentally changed by social media, it is not essential.


Social media will not automatically make social movements more successful, power is fuelled by the dedication and commitment of the people involved, not by technology. Also, its important to remember that not all nations have the freedom to use social media, and some people do not have access to the internet. However, in democratic nations, social media has fundamentally changed the way protests, demonstrations and action can be organised and they way participants can engage.


Online journals


Atton, C. 2003. Reshaping Social Movement Media for a New Millennium. Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest. 2(1): 3-15


Carroll, W. and Hackett, R. 2006. Democratic media activism through the lens of social movement theory. Media Culture Society. 28(1): 83-104.


Carroll, K. and Ratner, S . 1999. Media Strategies and Political Projects: A Comparative Study of Social Movements. Canadian Journal of Sociology. 24(1): 1–34.


Gladwell, M. 2011. From Innovation to Revolution. Foreign affairs. Available at: Accessed 12.12.2013


Gleason,B. 2013. Occupy Wall Street: Exploring Informal Learning about a Social Movement on Twitter. American Behavioural Scientist 57(7):966-982


Nanabhay and Farmanfarmaian. 2011. From spectacle to spectacular: How physical space, social media and mainstream broadcast amplified the public sphere in Egypt’s ‘Revolution’. The Journal of North African Studies, 16:4, 573-603


Shirky,C. 2011. The political power of social media: Technology, the public sphere and political change. Foreign Affairs. Available at: Accessed 12.12.2013

Skoric, Ying & Ng. 2009. Bowling Online, Not Alone: Online Social Capital and Political Participation in Singapore. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 14:414-433.

Schneier, B. 2008. Book Review ‘Here Comes Everybody’. IEE Explore. Available online:

Accessed: 11.12.13


Van Laer, J & Van Aelst, J. 2010. Internet and Social Movement Action Repertoires. Information, Communication & Society, 13(8): 1146-1171


Shirky, C. 2008. Here comes everybody. The power of organizing without organizations. London: Penguin


Stevenson, N. and Webster, F., eds., 2001. Culture and politics in the information age: a new politics? London: Routledge.



IDS. 2013. Available at: Accessed11.12.13


IndyMedia. 2013. Available at: Accessed 11.12.13 The


Economist.2010. Available at: Accessed 11.12.13

Aid Stories: Memoirs & Blogs

Do aid-workers’ blogs, poems and memoirs have value as a resource for research?  


Writing as catharsis

A picture of human life, such as a great artist can give, surprises even the trivial and the selfish into that attention to what is apart from themselves which may be called the raw material of moral sentiment (George Elliot)

Non-academic literature has power: it can effectively convey extremely complex ideas to a variety of people. Fictional writing, poems and blogs are engaging and they can reach out to a large audience and express elaborate questions in every day language that invokes compassion.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog by Quinn Zimmerman who is an American 30 year-old-man who lived in Haiti for a year and six months to work with an aid organisation. Zimmerman discusses the way his feelings change throughout his time spent there, something that resonated with me from my experiences living abroad. But also, after living in Haiti for over a year, he reaches his own conclusion on foreign aid that is similar to the arguments we are encountering on our development degree at the University of Sussex. It was nice to hear it from someone who isn’t an academic, to read it from a very personal, diary-style account. His main point is that when you first arrive in a new country you see all the beauty and appreciate all the differences, but after a few months you become more cynical and start to see the challenges and annoyances.

His honesty and humility is inspiring…

“I helped people in Haiti in the immediate sense of the word… But in the long view, I have a hard time believing I accomplished anything akin to real change, because I was part of a system designed to combat the symptoms of Haiti’s illness, not the root causes.”

“Aid is not charismatic, but it is compelling, because it represents a desire to manifest the best of ourselves: a powerful, affirming, awakened engagement with one another that comes from the marriage of human ingenuity to human compassion” (Zimmerman, 2012)

Reading an informal account of development was refreshing. Lewis, Rodgers and Woolcock wrote an article called “The Fiction of Development: literary representation as a source of authoritative knowledge” (2008) which argues that literary fiction can help development practitioners ‘glean new insights and novel perspectives’. They claim that policy documents should be understood as narratives that decide which development problems are discussed by powerful actors. Non-academic publications shouldn’t be considered to have less authority, there is a fine line between what is fiction and what is not. Story telling happens in news journalism too, its all about the way you present the facts.

One of the most useful aspects of this publication by Lewis, Rodgers and Woolcock was the list of books it recommended to development students. It includes The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, insisting that books like this one educate western readers about the realities of everyday life in Afghanistan. Their assertion is that literature can paint a more nuanced view of life and helps the reader understand foreign values and ideas from a different society.

Here is the list of over 60 books on development:

Achebe, C. (1958) Things Fall Apart (London: Heinemann).
Ali, M. (2003) Brick Lane (London: Doubleday).
Amado, J. (1965 [1943]) The Violent Land (New York: Knopf).
Ballard, J.G. (1994) Rushing to Paradise (London: Harper Collins).
Ballard, J.G. (1987) The Day of Creation (London: Victor Gollancz).
Borges, J.L. (2000 [1964]) Labyrinths: Selected Short Stories and Other Writings (London: Penguin Books).
Boyd, W. (1982) A Good Man in Africa (London: Penguin).
Boyd, W. (1991) Brazzaville Beach (London: Penguin).
Brunner, J. (1968) Stand on Zanzibar (New York: Ballantine).
Buck, P.S. (2004 [1931]) The Good Earth (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Camus, A. (1994 [1948]) The Plague (New York: First Vintage International).
Carpentier, A. (1989 [1957]) The Kingdom of This World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Cohen, A. (1996 [1968]) Belle du Seigneur: A Novel (New York: Viking).
Condé, M. (1996 [1984]) Segu (New York: Penguin).
Conrad, J. (1990 [1902]) Heart of Darkness (New York: Dover Publications).
Conrad, J. (1983 [1904]Nostromo (London: Penguin).
Darko, A. (1995) Beyond the Horizon (London: Heinemann).
de Bernières, L. (1990) The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts (London: Secker and Warburg).
Desai, A. (2000) Diamond Dust and Other Stories (London: Chatto and Windus).
Farrell, J.G. (1973) The Siege of Krishnapur (London: George Weidenfeld and Nicholson).
Fielding, H. (1994) Cause Celeb (London: Picador).
Forster, E.M. (2000 [1924]) A Passage to India (London: Penguin).
Frisch, M. (1959 [1957]) Homo Faber (New York: Harcourt).
Fuentes, C. (1989 [1987]) Christopher Unborn (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Galgut, D. (2004) The Good Doctor (London: Atlantic Books).
Genet, J. (1988 [1958]) The Blacks: A Clown Show (New York: Grove Press).
Gordimer, N. (1978) The Conservationist (London: Penguin).
Green, G. (1991 [1955]) The Quiet American (London: Penguin).
Kadaré, I. (2005 [1981]) The Palace of Dreams (London: Harvill Press).
Kingsolver, B. (1998) The Poisonwood Bible (New York: Harper Collins).
Kipling, R. (1987 [1901]) Kim (London: Penguin).
Kourouma, A. (1997 [1970]) The Suns of Independence (Teaneck: Holmes and Meier Publishers).
Kourouma, A. (2001 [1998]) Waiting for the Vote of the Wild Animals (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press).
Kourouma, A. (2005 [2000]) Allah is not obliged (London: Heinemann).
Lahiri, J. (1999) Interpreter of Maladies (New York: Houghton Mifflin).
Lapierre, D. (1985) The City of Joy (New York: Warner Books).
Le Carré, J. (2000) The Constant Gardener (New York: Scribner).
Maalouf, A. (1983) The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (London: Saqi Books).
Mahfouz, N. (1993 [1966]) Adrift on the Nile (New York: Anchor Books).
Mahjoub, J. (1989) Navigation of a Rainmaker (London: Heinemann).
Mahjoub, J. (1994) Wings of Dust (London: Heinemann).
Marquez, G. Garcia (1997 [1985[) Love in the Time of Cholera (New York: Knopf).
Marquez, G. Garcia (1995 [1967]) One Hundred Years of Solitude (New York: Knopf).
Mistry, R. (1996) A Fine Balance (London: Faber and Faber).
Molteno, M. (1992) A Shield of Coolest Air (London: Shola Books).
Mwangi, M. (1976) Going Down River Road (London: Heinemann).
Naipaul, V.S. (2001 [1961]) A House for Mr. Biswas (New York: First Vintage International).
Narayan, R.K. (1993 [1976]) The Painter of Signs (London: Penguin).
Neruda, P. (2003 [1947]) Residence on Earth (London: Souvenir Press).
Neruda, P. (1993 [1950]) Canto General (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Okri, B. ([1991]) The Famished Road (New York: Anchor Books).
Ondaatje, M. (2000) Anil’s Ghost (London: Bloomsbury).
Ousmane, S. (1972) The Money Order (London: Heinemann).
Rush, N. (1992) Mating (New York: Vintage).
Rushdie, S. (1981) Midnight’s Children (London: Picador).
Saith, V. (1993) A Suitable Boy (London: Phoenix).
Sepulveda, L. (1993 [1989]) The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (New York: Harcourt).
Shukla, S. (1992 [1968]) Raag Darbari (New Delhi: Penguin India).
Soueif, A. (1999) The Map of Love (London: Bloomsbury).
Soyinka, W. (1963) A Dance of the Forests (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Tweedie, J. (1987) Internal Affairs (London: Penguin).
Vargas Llosa, M. (1975 [1969]) Conversations in the Cathedral (New York: Harper and Row).
Walcott, D. (1990) Omeros (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
wa Thiong’o, Ngugi (1977) Petals of Blood (London: Penguin).
wa Thiong’o, Ngugi (1989) Matigari (London: Heinemann).
Xingjian, G. (2000 [1990]) Soul Mountain (New York: Harper Collins).

Work Placement at Sightsavers

I am hoping to secure an exciting work placement in communications and public relations at Sightsavers, an NGO in Haywards Heath, in January 2014 as part of my BA International Development at Sussex University.

Sightsavers do life transforming work in over 30 countries and so the opportunity to work for them would be a huge honour.

Visit their website: Sightsavers

Sightsavers is a Non Governmental Organisation based in Haywards Heath, UK.

January 2013: I DID indeed secure a work placement and you can read about it here!

Amartya Sen on Development

Amartya Sen’s concept of Development As Freedom (1999) is highly acclaimed. He argues that human development is about the expansion of citizens capabilities.

Amartya Sen

For Sen, freedom means increasing citizens access and opportunities to the things they have reason to value. Sen challenges the mainstream concept of measuring development by economic growth (Evans 2002).

Sen does acknowledge that increases in poor people’s incomes do contribute to the expansion of their freedoms. However, he recognises that increase of income alone “has at best uneven and at worst has detrimental impacts on the majority of a country’s population, and radical redistributive measures are necessary for the poor to benefit from growth” (Selwyn 2011:69).

Sen alerts the reader that poverty, unfulfilled elementary needs, the occurrence of famines, the violation of political freedoms and neglect of the agency of women remain today despite ‘unpredented opulence’ (1999). He makes it clear that previous strategies to reduce these catastrophes are erroneous. His approach focuses on human flourishing as the entry point to the problem of poverty and global inequality rather than economic growth (Reid-Henry 2012). Sen (1999) contends that all human beings are equally entitled to enjoy a life that they value.

If pursuing freedom-for-all is about expanding citizens’ capabilities, the focus should not be exclusively on making up for what people lack (Reid-Henry 2012).  “Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency” (Sen 1999:xii). Sen defines the major factors that limit freedom as ‘poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity of repressive states” (Sen 1999:1). He argues for the removal of these major factors. Sen focuses on crucial instrumental freedoms: economic opportunities, political freedoms, social facilities, transparency guarantees and protective security. These, he argues, need to be interconnected. Social facilities involve institutions such as the state and the market. Sen asserts societal arrangements should be investigated “in terms of their contribution to enhancing and guaranteeing the substantive freedoms of individuals, seen as active agents of change rather than as passive recipients of dispensed benefits” (Sen 1999:xii). Social facilities should aim to provide opportunities that increase the well-being of the population.

Sen’s Contribution to Development

Sen’s work (1999) had a huge influence on the establishment of a new paradigm in the early 2000s. Development was “redefined in terms that include human rights as a constitutive part: all worthwhile processes of social change are simultaneously rights-based and economically grounded, and should be conceived of in those terms” (Uvin 2010:168). Sen’s capability approach challenges the world-view of elites. He manages to convince skeptical economists that social choice and public discussion is both possible and necessary. He contends that choices about growth strategies should be democratic (Evans 2012). “Sen has focused on the well-being of those at the bottom of society, not the efficiency of those at the top” (Longworth 1999). He influences the ideas and decisions made by other development actors. The Millennium Development Goals are guided by Sen’s ideas. The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, spoke about freedom and the rights of the poor in his report named ‘In Larger Freedom’ (2005).

“A world of interdependence cannot be safe or just unless people everywhere are freed from want and fear and are able to live in dignity. Today, as never before, the rights of the poor are as fundamental as those of the rich, and a broad understanding of them is as important to the security of the developed world as it is to that of the developing world” (Annan 2005).

When discussing the Human Development Index, Paul Streeten concludes “the approach that sees nutrition, education and health as ends in themselves… will argue for projects… that enhance these ends, even when conventionally measured rates of return on these investments turn out to be zero”( Streeten 2009:234) and this approach “leads inevitably to the call for freedom by the people” (Streeten 2009:236).

Critique of Sen’s concept

Sen’s capability approach is viewed by most development practitioners as an invaluable analytical and philosophical foundation. However it is argued that this foundation should not just be admired but built upon (Evans 2012). Selwyn argues that Sen’s view of freedom in capitalist markets is myopic as the market is an institutionalized unfreedom. He asserts that Sen complies with Adam Smith’s understanding of the market as an arena of choice and “does not propose radical, distributive, developmental policies and practices” (Selwyn 2011:75). Although Sen’s approach seems radical in many ways, in terms of markets it does not challenge the status quo, overlooking the detrimental exploitative affect that the market can have on the poor. Moreover, as Evans (2012) argues, in the current context market-based power inequalities need to be prevented, Sen overlooks this. By using both Smith and Marx to support his case, Sen’s work has many contradictions. His work on famines is at variance with his liberal conception of the capitalist markets (Selwyn 2011).

Uvin (2010) contends that Sen’s ideas on democracy and participation were not new. He quotes a Statement written five years before Sen wrote Development as Freedom. The statement is from the UN Secretary-General’s agenda for development.

“Democracy and development are linked in fundamental ways… They are linked because democracy is a fundamental human right, the advancement which is itself an important measure of development. They are linked because people’s participation in the decision making processes which affect their lives is a basic tenet of development” (United Nations 1994, para 120).

Uvin argues that we ought to ask why these ideas have not been acted on before, since they have been around along time in the development field. “This is where we encounter the limits of Amartya Sen’s major contribution to development. There is no politically grounded analysis for what stands in the way of his approach” (Uvin 2010:168). “By signing up to Sen’s vision, [agencies] remain committed to little more that improved discourse – in this case in a well-appreciated economic-sounding form” (Uvin 2010:169). Sen had a radical impact on development debates and policy but what is happening in practice? Are development actors questioning their own behaviour? The human-rights objectives “are to be implemented out there, in the Third World. Without the agencies requiring a critical look at oneself” (Uvin 2010:169).

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Annan, K. 2005. “In Larger Freedom”: Decision Time at the UN. Foreign Affairs.  Available at: Accessed         26th March 2013

Evans, P. 2002. Collective Capabilities, Culture, and Amartya Sen’s Development as        Freedom. Studies in Comparative International Development. 37:2. pp 54-60.

Longworth, R. 1999. Amartya Sen. Nobel Prize winning economist. The Chicago   Tribune. [Online] 28th March 1999. Available at:       28/news/9903280117_1_inequality-economy-amartya-sen. Accessed: 27th  March 2013

Reid-Henry, S. 2012. Amartya Sen: economist, philosopher, human development  doyen. The Guardian [Online] 22nd November 2012. Available at:   human-development-doyen. Accessed 26th March 2013

Selwyn, B. 2011. Liberty Limited? A sympathetic re-engagement with Amartya    Sen’s Development as freedom. Economic and Political weekly. XLVI:37. Sep 10

Selwyn, B. 2013. Capitalism vs. Development. Not yet published.

Sen, A. 1999. Development As Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Uvin, P. 2010. From the right to development to the rights-based approach: how human rights entered development. In Cornwall and Eade(eds). Deconstructing Development Discourse. Buzzwords and Fuzzwords. Oxford:Practical Action Publishing Ltd.