Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Change Across Cultures Pt 1

Working in the field of community development I have seen many development agencies attempt to make social changes superficially. For example one organization in the area I work has attempted to change gender roles in the local culture through the use of posters. Often it is a nice sounding project that makes donors happy, but does very little to impact the community. I have been reading Change Across Cultures: A Narrative Approach to Social Transformation by Bruce Bradshaw and wanted to share a little bit from it.

Bradshaw wrestles with this very problem of development agencies defaulting to the quick fix to make changes in a community. He brings a deep, anthropologically informed of cultures and worldviews in to inform the values that drive cultural practices. In the introduction to the book, he describes the ethnic conflict in Albania and explains how mired it is in the worldview of the people. Our quick fix solutions to these types of issues leave the worldview unaddressed and thus the conflicts continue. Bradshaw posits:

"Sustainable cultural change requires the transformation of the values that permeate the cultural narratives, which are the stories of the social structures that comprise the communities in which people live." (Bradshaw, Change Across Cultures, 12)

My reaction when I read the introduction was that he presents the problem beautifully but have no idea how he will offer some workable options to address the deeper issues in societies across the world.

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