“Adults are obsolete children,” is an oft quoted saying of Dr. Seuss. One of the major characteristics that differentiates adults and children is adults actively try NOT to make mistakes. I don’t think this is wrong, I just don’t think it is right. Mistakes are how we learn as children and the amount of mistakes children make are precisely why we learn fastest when we are a child.
Methodology, reflexivity, agency and making a difference, and power and relationships converge and overlap, and together with parts of my life experience point to the need for a pedagogy for the powerful or (with apologies to Paulo Freire, through I hope he would have approved) for the oppressors, or more tactfully, the non-oppressed. My power, ignorance and ignorance of ignorance as a district officer led me to do harm when I meant to do good and thought I was doing good. In the history of development there are many good things, but the avoidable errors are appalling. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of poor people were deprived, suffered and often died as a result of policies of structural adjustment alone. We need better ways, procedures, methodologies and experiences to enable those who make and influence policy, and ourselves in development studies, to be more aware, to get it right, and to do better. The big priority now is realism, to bridge and close the chasm, which has opened even wider between the incestuous love-hate relationships of lenders, donors and policy-makers in their capital city and five-star hotel meetings and workshops, and the poor people for whose benefit our development industry is said to exit. Recognizing their power in development studies, we can ask too whether we need a pedagogy for funders.
– Robert Chambers in his excellent (and short!) new book Into the Unknown: Explorations in Development practice