My dictionary for economic development practitioners

At any point in time I am coaching several development experts and learners around the world. I have a short list of words that when I see them in any document I see red flags. However, there are also several words that when I see them I know we are on the right track.

I share my list with you. Some refer to this as Shawn’s Dictionary for Economic Development.

Synergy NOT compromise. Synergy you focus on using the strengths of different ideas, people, organisations.

Collaboration NOT cooperation through control. Get organisations to work together yet independent. Do not try everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet. Rather allow for some jazz.

Balance NOT single minded or focus. Balance allows you to work with contradiction, conflict and seemingly opposing ideas.

Catalytic NOT incidence or isolated. I know that focus is good in an office environment. But in development focus on a specific incident can easily ignore the bigger system.

Stimulate NOT achieve. Try to find ways of getting the people to work better. Energize the system, don’t just fix the problem.

Identify patterns NOT problems. The patterns tell you about the system, the problem is a symptom.

Explore NOT prescribe. Get the people in the system to better understand what is going on.

Crowd in NOT filter out. By excluding elements in the system by creating artificial filters (like gender, wealth or social status) you weaken the system.

People and relationships NOT products and technology.  This one I have to frequently remind myself about. In the end it is about the process that we use to get people to work and thing together, not about the technology or products. The latter is always temporary.

Now I know that there may be certain contexts where my dictionary might not work, but that is why a red flag goes up when I see these “wrong” words. When I see one of the wrong words I must immediately ask some deeper questions.

Which words do you red flag?

Lets build a list and have a debate!

Published by

Shawn Cunningham

I am passionate about how organisations and institutions change in developing and transitioning countries. I essentially work between organisations, communities, industries and experts.

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