The British Council: Development & training

Social development policy


Social development focuses on how disadvantaged groups in low- income countries can benefit more equitably from development projects. It encourages project 'stakeholders' to be actively involved in the design, delivery and implementation of a project to help sustain the improvements achieved.

Social development, using social analysis, is a sector in its own right as well as being cross-cutting ie. a set of approaches and techniques applicable to all sectors in development. Social development covers:

Social development, as a discipline, emerged to articulate the needs of poor and marginalised groups. Since the late 1980s, many aid programmes have moved away from major construction projects towards more 'people-centred' and overtly political development projects.

Support for centralised social and economic planning has given way to the greater involvement of 'civil society', particularly NGOs, as project partners, as well as to developments focused on 'bottom-up' solutions to poverty.

Social development promotes access both to experience gained in Britain itself as well as to the experience which various British organisations have gained in developing countries. As such, it promotes UK influence from a position of world leadership in the field.

In low-income countries, gender equality is an essential part of the British Council's work in social development. Outside low- income countries, the Council also has gender equality programmes which are covered by a seperate policy paper.

UK capability in the sector

Britain is a world leader in social development. Many of the world's leading social development theorists, writers and practitioners have come from British universities and development NGOs. Both universities and research departments of major NGOs publish research papers and journals with global circulations. UK practitioners and organisations were amongst the pioneers of participatory development methods and the UK is a focal point for the two global networks disseminating this methodology.

Key UK partners in social development include:

Sponsors' objectives

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
Social development is relevant to two FCO objectives, namely, 'to assist pluralism and sustainable economic and social development...' and 'to promote the influence and prestige of the UK'

Department for International Development (DfID)

Amongst aid donors, the DfID has a strong international reputation in social development. It draws a distinction between 'Social Analysis' and 'Social Development Sector Issues':

Social Analysis
looks at how both the economic and social benefits of development are distributed among different social groups eg. men/women, rich/poor, rural/urban. Social analysis aims to identify groups that might otherwise be left out of development. This enables them to take action to improve their own well-being.

Social Development Sector Issues
In addition to social analysis, the DfID gives priority to particular social development issues which include:

British Council objectives in social development

British Council resources in social development


Means of delivery

The Council has a senior advisory post in social development at its Manchester headquarters, supported by an adviser in social development and gender. These posts are also supported by a network of associate consultants.

Please send questions and comments on this policy paper to:

Consultant (Social development)
The British Council
Manchester M15 4AA






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© The British Council 1997

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