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 sector analysis applied to all development sectors including governance, infrastructure, education, environment and health
- Social sector NGO capacity building
- Poverty reduction projects and programmes, often targeting low-income rural or urban communities
- Gender and development (see Gender equality Sector Policy)
- Social safety net and social sector policy and planning
- Participatory development
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:
- Major UK development NGOs active in poverty reduction programmes overseas including Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and ActionAid. These large development NGOs have research and publication units producing information and training materials in social development.
- Social development teaching and research departments in British universities which provide consultants and social development advisers for DfID and international aid organisations.
- Development teaching and research departments in UK universities have a very strong international reputation. Britain is regarded as a world leader in development research in South Asia and anglophone Africa. International aid agencies fund staff and overseas students to study social development courses in the UK.
- Development education organisations - some attached to universities, some independent - working to raise awareness in the UK (often in schools) about development issues.
- The growing number of freelance social development consultants. British consultants, including those from universities and NGOs, are in demand as advisers to bi-lateral and multi-lateral aid organisations, international lending agencies, and international development organisations.
- Development journalists working for publications such as the New Internationalist; and development information institutions.
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':
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:
- promoting gender equality
- the inclusion of marginalised and disadvantaged groups such as ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and the disabled.
- the needs of children, young people and the elderly
- developing the capacity of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with poverty
- participatory methods to include the poor and disadvantaged in decision-making
- area upgrading programmes, rural and urban, to benefit low income communities
- social integration and finding peaceful solutions to conflict
- policies for social safety nets and welfare systems
British Council objectives in social development
- To promote the use overseas of British social development expertise in order to enhance Britain's influence on international social development policy and practice.
- To identify and help mobilise aspects of community work eg. in Britain's inner cities, relevant to social development practice overseas.
- To strengthen the capacity of overseas organisations and consultants to act as partners in development programmes.
- To support the priority given to social development by the British aid programme, and to co-ordinate Council activities with those of other aid and development agencies.
- To integrate social development perspectives and methodology into project design and implementation. This ensures maximum impact for Council-managed donor and lender projects.
- To develop British Council staff awareness and credibility in social development through information, training and briefing programmes.
British Council resources in social development
- Working with overseas partners in government, NGOs and the private sector to strengthen their social development skills and institutional capacity, and to facilitate policy dialogue.
- Providing information services, giving key development professionals overseas access to best practice in social development from the UK and globally.
- Supporting key individuals overseas to receive training in social development either in the UK, regionally or in-country.
- Disseminating best practice in social development by bringing professionals together globally and regionally to share experiences.
- Linking UK academic institutions with counterparts overseas to support the exchange of staff and expertise in social development research, training and curriculum development.
- Promoting South/South co-operation and building networks of local consultants to work on projects in-country and regionally.
- Running international seminars on social development issues.
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.
- In the UK, the Council has extensive contacts in the field. Overseas offices and partners therefore have access to academic institutions, development NGOs, the voluntary sector and freelance consultants.
- Overseas, the Council has a similar network of social development contacts and local staff who understand their country's culture and operating context. It often employs local consultants.
- The Council's regional networks enable it to bring together development practitioners regionally as well as globally, to share experiences.
- The Council's status overseas often enables it to work in fields not open to UK NGOs (eg human rights issues) and with a wide range of local partners from governments to community groups.
- The Council is able to bring together its expertise in development and the arts. Theatre is being used, for example, to convey health messages at village level.
- The Council's information network enables it to facilitate information exchange between UK and overseas, south with south and globally. The Council has focused on information for development in many countries and developed innovative approaches.
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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