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An Analysis of Participatory Communication for Development: A Social Construction Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Participatory Communication for Development 1 Introduction As an intern with the Canadian Embassy in Vietnam, I worked and interacted with various well- intentioned expatriates. Although their affiliations differed, the common reason for their presence in Vietnam was to somehow help “develop” the country, economically, socially, culturally, and so on. The range and variety of development initiatives in Vietnam was astounding. Development jargon rolled off most tongues with ease and frequency: poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, participatory development, sustainable development. My experiences in trying to decode and evaluate development in Vietnam left my head spinning. What is development? Which techniques are most effective? Which are not? These questions, which were not assuaged by my informal observations, prompted this study. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) explains its raison-d’etre by demonstrating the widespread poverty, inequality, and lack of well-being around the world, and thus they pledge to “support sustainable development activities in order to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world” (CIDA, 2000). “Developed” countries have, for some time now, looked to “developing” countries and attempted to create a better standard of living for all. As lofty as this goal may seem, there are many who argue that development has hurt rather than helped individuals in developing nations. Gustavo Esteva (1992) maintains that to define some nations as developed and the rest as developing or un(der)developed is to define “a heterogeneous and diverse majority simply in the terms of a homogenizing and narrow minority” (p. 7). Gardner and Lewis (1996) agree that one way to understand development, particularly in its historical context, is as a “starkly political project of continued Northern dominance over the South” (p. 1). Despite its problematic nature, the concept and

Authors: Dare, Alexa.
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Participatory Communication for Development
1
Introduction
As an intern with the Canadian Embassy in Vietnam, I worked and interacted with various well-
intentioned expatriates. Although their affiliations differed, the common reason for their presence in
Vietnam was to somehow help “develop” the country, economically, socially, culturally, and so on.
The range and variety of development initiatives in Vietnam was astounding. Development jargon
rolled off most tongues with ease and frequency: poverty reduction, women’s empowerment,
participatory development, sustainable development. My experiences in trying to decode and evaluate
development in Vietnam left my head spinning. What is development? Which techniques are most
effective? Which are not? These questions, which were not assuaged by my informal observations,
prompted this study.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) explains its raison-d’etre by
demonstrating the widespread poverty, inequality, and lack of well-being around the world, and thus
they pledge to “support sustainable development activities in order to reduce poverty and to contribute
to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world” (CIDA, 2000). “Developed” countries have, for
some time now, looked to “developing” countries and attempted to create a better standard of living for
all. As lofty as this goal may seem, there are many who argue that development has hurt rather than
helped individuals in developing nations.
Gustavo Esteva (1992) maintains that to define some nations as developed and the rest as
developing or un(der)developed is to define “a heterogeneous and diverse majority simply in the terms
of a homogenizing and narrow minority” (p. 7). Gardner and Lewis (1996) agree that one way to
understand development, particularly in its historical context, is as a “starkly political project of
continued Northern dominance over the South” (p. 1). Despite its problematic nature, the concept and


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