Using sociocultural expertise when planning sustainability projects Essay

Submitted By courtneyxnicole
Words: 1272
Pages: 6

The goal of economic development is to increase capital wealth and standard of living for present and future generations. To reach this goal, development planners put a strong emphasis on the improvement of the target community’s economy and industry. However, these planners often take shortcuts and ignore social factors during the project cycle. This creates culturally ignorant projects that fail to meet the needs of the specific target community. The use of sociocultural expertise has become increasingly prevalent over the past few decades in the attempt to ensure that social factors are considered and not overlooked during the project cycle. Since the 1970’s, anthropological social analysis has become increasingly influential in the planning and implementation of development projects. The increased value of social analysis is directly attributed to the “growing awareness of the importance of social and cultural phenomena to effective development policies and planning” (Paiement 205). Developers recognized a pattern of failure due to an irredeemably flawed system. These projects often failed due to the lack of knowledge about the local systems and culture. Now, it is generally acknowledged that social factors play a key role in the success of a development project. Many sociocultural factors must be identified and taken into account when planning development projects. A sampling of these factors include: traditional beliefs and values, the relationship between land owning and social structure, current agricultural and irrigation systems, the availability of resources, and the causes and consequences of major behavioral changes. Today, “a number of procedures for participant-observation, informal surveys and in-depth case studies” are used to collect information vital to the understanding of these social variables (Paiement 206). When this valuable information is ignored, development planners create socially incompatible projects that have inverse effects on the target communities. One common mistake made by development planners is under-differentiation. This refers to the planners’ tendency to view less developed countries (LDC’s) as an undifferentiated group. “This is apparent when an international development agency ignores cultural diversity and adopts the same approach with very different types of ‘beneficiaries’” (Kottak 726). The failure to distinguish between small tribal herders and businessmen-ranchers is an example of under-differentiation that happens in many livestock projects. “In South American livestock projects, for example, sub-loan recipients are usually literate, educated, experienced, and often fairly wealthy. There ranchers have little need for, and often reject, programs of technical assistance that seem to be included just to fit the development blueprint” (Kottak 726). This is a shortcut to avoid having to do a social analysis for each target community. The consequence of this is useless projects that waste development funds and have little to no positive effects on the target community. Developers must realize that successful projects need to use policies that appropriately address the problems that that specific society faces (Collier 139).
Over-innovation is also a common outcome of these culturally incompatible development strategies. Over-innovation refers to the creation of inappropriate, unworkable, or unnecessary organizations. Planners fail to identify the locally perceived needs and instead develop an abstract goal based on a strategy that was successful elsewhere. These over-innovated projects rarely have the support or cooperation of the beneficiaries because they require too much change in their daily lives and customary subsistence pursuits.
One good example of an over-innovation is a South American irrigation project that conflicted with established cropping patterns. “It attempted to get farmers to shift from perennial to annual crops at a time when the price of