A personal letter on the concept of Development

When I first moved to the Netherlands in August 2013, my concept of  Development was much closer to the one of Justice. However, a year and a half after that trip to the country of the Mills, my concept of Development changed towards different interpretations and values. Personally, development was seen as a concept related to ‘advocacy’; with the aim to generate an engagement and collaboration between different levels; from small-farmers to multilateral organizations. It was also seen as a concept related to movements and people
working from the local/communities levels. 

However, years before I got to
experience my first Master Studies at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS),
the concept of Development was more related to the one that goes along with the
private sector. This conceptualization was shaped mainly by my first
real working experience in the area of development -mainly in collaboration
with corporations and chambers of commerce.

This experience took place when I was 21 years old. I
was living in China, and perhaps living the Chinese “Dream”. I remember looking out from the top of my
apartment’s roof -in the city of Shanghai- and the view was nothing but cranes
constructing high buildings and skyscrapers. A formidable view of what growth,
prosperity and economic development can bring about. However, economic
development can come at the expense of social and environmental development. During my stay here, I was able to witness first-hand the
trade-offs involved in new development projects and the challenges of
delivering the benefits of those projects in an equitable and sustainable
manner. That experience made me realize the dark reality behind the promises
of “bi-millionaire” projects. The promises of delivering
sustainability on large scale projects are always difficult to bring up; and
when large companies are taking action on that manner it is difficult to hold
them accountable or to measure their impact. Therefore, the importance of
collaboration between NGOs, private sector, government and society should be
the pillar of every investment, policy, and project.  

Gradually, my concept of development
was evolving as my personal and professional experiences were changing and new
challenges were coming to my life. So now that I am able to reflect on the past, live in the present and observe the future, I can
surely say that the concept of Development have been transformed in accordance
to different stages of my professional and academic experience. Now, I am here
again on my second trip on a Master Studies in International Development; and
this time my journey is still trying to discover what development should be

Should it be only about justice? Or should it be about engagement at every

Or more importantly, should the concept of development be shaped by
personal experiences or by a shared-community’s objective and values

Lucia Lopez Pineda

Lucia is currently working on
Corporate Accountability mechanisms and the Behind the Brands Campaign at Oxfam
Novib. She is born and raised in Mexico but has a strong affinity to everything Chinese. 


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