GSLL 1509 - Development and the Politics of Empowerment

  • 2 CEUs

“…development is a process of empowerment.” –Edwards, The Irrelevance of Development Studies

Over the last few decades, many scholars have begun to challenge traditional conceptions of development. Their work has generated an intense debate between those that attribute “underdevelopment” to cultural factors, and those that dismiss such ideas as racially motivated and instead recognize poverty and marginalization as primarily structural and systemic issues. Indeed, the concept of poverty itself has been challenged.

Employing this critical lens, the course will examine the assertion that development should not only be seen as an economic process of wealth accumulation, but rather as a socio-political process of empowerment. This realization has major implications for how NGOs approach development, as it brings to light the fact that this work has a substantial political component.

In order to overcome the disadvantages of poverty, structural barriers to success must be addressed. Through a careful investigation of the historical applications of development, we will explore the idea that development is an inherently political process and challenge the claim that any development NGO is apolitical. Additionally, we will strive to identify successful methods of community empowerment through political organization.

Upon completion, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the underlying political implications and perspectives of seemingly apolitical actions in development work
  • Apply and refine techniques of empowerment and advocacy
  • Understand the history of development thinking as it relates to politics
  • Articulate a broader understanding of key terms such as empowerment, participation, politics, and power

Noncredit courses do not produce academic credit nor appear on a Colorado State University academic transcript.

Important Information

Due to the condensed time frame for this course, students cannot withdraw and receive a refund once the course begins.


David Bartecchi

David is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology. His B.A. and M.A. degrees are in anthropology. He is the director of program development for Village Earth: The Consortium for Sustainable Village-Based Development, and an instructor in CSU's anthropology department.

David's areas of expertise include community capacity building, social capital theory, participatory action research, survey and evaluative research methods, development with indigenous communities, and application of information communication technologies in rural development.

Jamie Way

Jamie Way received her master’s degree in political science from Colorado State University. Her academic work has focused specifically on development, Latin America, and indigenous rights struggles. She is currently employed as part of Village Earth and the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s training faculty. She has worked on Village Earth’s Pine Ridge Reservation project and on their Amazon project in Peru. Jamie is also currently working as Research Coordinator at Alliance for Global Justice.

This course is taught on a rotating basis by Jamie Way, Dave Bartecchi and Kristina Pearson.