Monday, September 9, 2013

Taking the human factor into account when designing development policies

Opinion article by: David Ricardo Murcia * (
Political Sciences student, Universidad EAFIT, Colombia

There is one thing that is usually forgotten when someone design a complex system to give a population the key to development, especially when those designs are made by a mostly economic perspective. For instance, assuming that the individuals are rational and that they are circumscribed to an institutional frame were actors –collective or not- are constrained to certain rules, which determine the actions that could be done, it would be  naive statement.
This column is not pretending that the economic perspective lacks on value to the development thought, but it, by itself is not enough. There they left the sociological and political structure of the peoples they’re willing to help without attention, and that course they attempt to failure.
Let me explain myself with a real example. Professors Oughton, Landabaso and Morgan make a significantly contribution to the institutional thought of development in their joint paper The RegionalInnovation Paradox (2002). There they sustain that for acquiring a greater impact in helping people develop there should be more governmental support to programs “promoting inter-organizational learning, improving existing regional innovation capacity and exploiting possibilities for investment and innovation activity”, going further the mainstream programs that rely on the increase of external inversions, and the isolated attempts of the public sector and universities to give the region an opportunity of growth (Oughton, Landabasoand Morgan, 2002).
That’s quite a point. If the state promotes ways in which regions actually learn how to innovate in coordination with universities and, the private and public sector, there for sure are the creation of a functional program for development. But, what the authors of the paper left behind are the social-political character of the regions they study. All are place in the EU: the most highly develop regional political institution, which have the capacity to intervene in its on jurisdiction with little resistance of the folk. That would give the paper and its conclusions reduce space of validity for a global application.
It is not, that what is done by de European Union in Europe could be done in other region. For example, the UNASUR has got low power to help intra-state region develop, and even if it has a way to actually intervene, the people of South America wouldn’t react so softly due to their political customs and social constitution. There, in Europe, the people have gain used to obey the institutional actors: organizations with little link to the person. But here, we are used to see people as the power and the closer the person in power is, the more obedient the folk are. In these sense, if national leaders as presidents are incapable of gaining the control of its entire legal jurisdiction, something as far as UNASUR couldn’t be more irrelevant in order to organize, or even help society.

As a short coming conclusion the institutional agreement proposed by Oughton, Landabasoand Morgan (2002) could only be applicable to Europe due to the sociological political structure of the region and can’t easily be transported to other global regions, just as one would think, they pretended. Each region requires a deep study of the social and political structure before proposing a development scheme. It would be premature to said so, but South America needs the state to stop pretending a transliteration of external programs and start figuring out how to use the human factor that actually exists. 


Oughton, Christine; Landabaso, Mikel & Morgan, Kevin (2002). The Regional Innovation Paradox: Innovation Policy and Industrial Policy. The Journal of Technology TransferVol. 27(1), pp. 97-110.

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