Mainstream development practice is all about size: the bigger the better. Sure, large scale development projects effect the macroeconomic environment of a developing country, but do these successes trickle down to the smallest of the citizenry? We always hear national governments boast of economic growth, increase in GDP, upgrades of credit ratings, among others, but are these ‘economic miracles’ felt by the citizens, especially those in the lowest levels of society?
Alternative development critiques this mainstream thinking of development by stressing the need for redistribution rather than growth. Though this school of development thinking has no coherent theory, it vehemently points out the failure of mainstream development practice. Aside from redistribution, alternative development stresses for local initiatives, meeting basic needs first, human-centred development, community participation and self-reliance, and sustainable development.
Alternative development believes that “small is beautiful”. No need for those large-scale projects that oftentimes benefit the upper realms of society rather than the most needy. And since this area of development thinking works its way through the grassroots, it has emphasised mostly on participation and assets- and rights-based development.
We often hear of the saying ‘great things start from small beginnings’. And this is probably what alternative development is aiming for. National progress via grassroots development. Economic progress by empowering the local. Building up these small things will lead to one large-scale development project that will not only benefit the upper realms but also the lower realms of society.
This school of thought is probably the hipster among the society called development thoughts.