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Can Development Work? with Peter Sutoris (5 sessions)

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In this course, we will be asking one of the most fundamental questions of our times. Can development work? Does it lead to fulfillment? Or is it a fundamentally flawed idea? Is sustainable development realistic? Or is it an oxymoron? These questions are far from merely academic; they touch on the foundations of our civilization and our relationship to our planet, each other, and ourselves. 

We will explore these questions through the ideas of some of the great thinkers from both the North and the South. But ultimately, we will use our lived experience to wrestle with these questions. We will reflect on our own experience of development and the ways it shaped our lives. We will use our imaginations to come up with different futures we would like to see for our shared world, and ask ourselves whether development can help us reach them. And we will ask ourselves what we actually mean by development. How has our culture, education, upbringing, our media exposure, and our belief systems shaped our personal definitions of the word? What can we do to decolonize our definitions?

In this course, we will

  • Grasp the weaknesses and strengths of key arguments for and against development
  • Improve our awareness of our own assumptions, beliefs, and biases that shape how we engage with the idea of development
  • Foster our imagination of alternative futures and our ability to re-define our personal definition of development, bringing it closer to our imagined ideal future  

The course will weave the intellectual conversation with personal reflection across five weeks:

Week 1: What is development? 
We’ll cover the history of the development debate and learn about the different definitions the course participants bring to the table. 
Week 2: The case for development
We’ll reflect on the arguments that have been put forward in support of development. We’ll debate them and try to build a consensus around our collective response to them.
Week 3: The case against development
We’ll consider the critiques of development, and debate their merits and shortcomings. How can we critique the critique? 
Week 4: Development, sustainability, and the environmental crisis
We’ll ponder the state of the Earth, and whether development can help us get out of the environmental mess we are in – or if it is likely to make it worse.
Week 5: Decolonising development
We’ll consider the colonial roots of development and ask, is decolonial development possible?

Prior Requirements: Non-expert level. Come with a willingness to learn and expand your perspective

Certificate Requirements: To receive the certificate of completion, you need to attend 4 of the 5 sessions and have completed the course feedback

About the Facilitator

Peter Sutoris is an anthropologist who studies how different societies imagine the future differently. He has written two books, Visions of Development (Oxford University Press) and Educating for the Anthropocene (The MIT Press), and is currently writing his third, Why Technology Won’t Save Us (But Radical Imagination Will). He has had a nomadic life and continues to be fascinated by humanity’s richness and ability to create hope in the face of despair, something he also seeks to do in his practice as an educator.

Let's Get Started

Once you enroll, you will receive an invite from welearnwegrow@mn.co to join the course on the  WLWG learning platform. 

The course sessions will be online on Zoom with 10-15 other learners. We will post the access links on the course page on the WLWG platform. The sessions will be recorded in case you miss one. 

Since we are open to members from all parts of the world, we offer a sliding scale of contributions. Our plans are available at three levels of financial experience. If you would like to trial the course, you can enroll into the first session for free, after which you can pick one of our plans.

If for some reason you would like to attend the course but are unable to contribute financially, please contact us for a free seat.


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