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The Goal of Development

Volunteers working on projects that matter to the communities.

In the last article for our series on the concept of poverty, Peru Country Manager and development expert Daniel Salazar discusses the goal of development.

In the past blogposts, we have seen that poverty is the inability to enjoy wellbeing in certain basic areas or dimensions according to what people value. But poverty is the negative; what we are trying to avoid. What is the positive then? What are we trying to achieve?

The goal of development

That depends on your approach to development, or even in you worldview. For instance, according to the monetary approach, the goal is that people achieve high income or many resources. Similarly, from an economic point of view, the goal is that people would be more productive, and so have better jobs, more income, and more access to goods and services they want. In other words, according to these approaches the goal is that people enjoy more stuff so that they can feel good. Fortunately, there is an alternative approach which proposes that the goal be human flourishing, or a good life.

The good life

If the monetary an economic approaches focus on having and feeling, the good life approach focuses on enjoying and living. That is, it not only values access to resources, but also to their enjoyment in order to live a life according to the fullness of human capacities and valuations. If a person values art and being with his family more than anything, he need not be super productive or rich in order to have a good life. The goal then is that people have the opportunity to enjoy the kinds of lives they value. Consequently, development is the process of expanding those opportunities.

What do we do then?

Rather than trying to give everyone a good life, considering the limited amount of time and resources, it would be better to focus on those with the greatest privations first. Of course, even this is no task for a single person, and there is only so much we can do. But the question is whether we choose to do something for those in greater need, or if we rather worry about us having more stuff and being comfortable. Global volunteers offers the opportunity to serve in some of the most deprived communities in the world directly helping them have better opportunities, whether through community projects, teaching conversational English, caring for orphans or many other projects. Many volunteers say that volunteering abroad is a life-changing experience. Perhaps this is because the good life, fullness of life, is also about investing in the lives of others.

The goal of development

Volunteer reading to boys at a children’s home in Peru.

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