5 Approaches to Social Development

5 Approaches to Social Development 

  1. Development from the top.
  2. Development from the bottom.
  3. Sectoral Development.
  4. Area Development.
  5. Target Group Development.

Approaches to development may be discerned on the basis of two criteria, 

  1. Centralization versus decentralization of development schemes and resources, and unit of development,
  2. The focus of development – individual, group, village, etc. 
The first criterion is given rise to two approaches, namely, development from the top and development from the bottom. The second criterion gives rise to the three approaches -–sectoral development, areas development, and target group development. Let us now review briefly the five approaches

1-Development from the top

The approach of development from the top envisages the planning and execution, of development schemes by the central or apex bodies of administration. In other words, the central organizations decide the nature and direction of the plan, formulate projects and impose them on the people. For instance, the ministers and high officials sitting in the capital, make the development plans for rural people without fully realizing their problems.

Implicit in this approach is the assumption that the people who need development are incapable of understanding their needs, of devising development schemes, and of executing them on their own. Hence the need for experts and outside agencies. in fact, this assumption is baseless. The elite at the top has a vested interest in making such assumptions. Their major interest is to hold control on resources and mobilize them for their own benefits. The people accept the development schemes because they have neither sufficient resources of their own nor any control on the resources of the community. As a result, most of the schemes imposed from the top fail to yield the desired results.

This happens in most of cases. A large part of the funds of development schemes is eaten up in one way or the other, by the experts and executive personnel deputed or employed by the sponsors of the scheme, be it own government or any foreign agency. The major drawback of this approach is that it fails to involve the beneficiaries, in the development process. Instead, it generates a feeling of alienation among them. For these reasons, this approach has been characterized by a higher degree of centralization and bureaucratization.

2-Development from bottom

The exponents of the second approach of development from the bottom, on the contrary, believe the fairness of intentions and abilities of the people who need development. They are given an opportunity to articulate their problems as well as the ways to solve them. They are trained and made capably and are prepared for self-help. Utilisations of resources for development schemes is decided, by the concerned people themselves or by their representatives at the local level. Thus, there is a greater decentralization of plans and higher participation of people.

While the planners realize the importance of development from the bottom and claim that they adopt this approach, in practice, they often adopt the approach of development from the top. The result is the ineffectiveness of the development schemes.

3-Sectoral development

on the basis of ‘unit’ of development, as mentioned earlier, three approaches are envisaged,. sectoral development, area development and target group development. The sectoral development approach refers to the formulation and execution of schemes for the development, of a particular sector of the economy like agriculture or industry. For instance, the Indian planners thought of developing industries just after the Independence. Therefore they made plans to develop technology or borrow it from other countries. Stress was laid on technological education. Many institutes and colleges were established, independently or in collaboration with other countries, such as the United States of America, Russia, and England.

4-Area development

All regions are not equally developed. Some are more affluent than others. The underdevelopment of regions is due to the lack of infrastructural development-roads, railways, electrification, etc. or due to the problems of floods and drought. When schemes are devised for the infrastructural development of an area or region, we call it area development approach. The Command Area Development Scheme, introduced in India in 1974 for the development of irrigation resources in certain regions, illustrates this approach..

5-Target group development

The target group approach has its focus on a particular category of people, such as small farmers, women and farm laborers. Schemes, such as the Small Farmers Development Agency (SFDA) and reservation of seats in schools and colleges, and in employment for scheduled castes, exemplify the target group approach. There is another approach to development, which has its focus on the overall development of the people residing in a locality – village or town. This is known as a community development approach. This approach lays stress on the development of education, health facilities, economic and social activities, and other infrastructural facilities.


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