This methodology has been developed in a project based on the DFID Strategy Paper Building Support for Development which states that:
…development awareness has failed to make the breakthrough in public perceptions which, for example, environmental education has made in recent years. If we are to achieve this breakthrough, the key lies in going beyond attitudes to development based on compassion and charity, and establishing a real understanding of our interdependence and of the relevance of development issues to people’s everyday lives.
This official document is one of the foundations of development education in the UK, which, according to the Development Education Association (DEA) has the following objectives:
• to explore the links between people living in the "developed" countries of the North with those of the "developing" South, enabling people to understand the links between their own lives and those of people throughout the world
• to increase understanding of the economic, social, political and environmental forces which shape our lives
• to develop the skills, attitudes and values which enable people to work together to take action to bring about change and take control of their own lives
• to work towards achieving a more just and a more sustainable world in which power and resources are more equitably shared.
The concept of interdependence is central to development education. Interdependence can be understood in different ways. Within this project, it has two dimensions: on the one hand, it refers to the ways in which decisions made at different levels in the Global North and South affect how power, resources, wealth and labour are used and distributed in the world. On the other hand it relates to how ways of seeing and being (cultures) of different groups affect how people see themselves and see and relate to others – and how this affects the reproduction of inequalities.
Understanding the complex processes and different logics of these connections is crucial in developing skills for responsible and informed ‘global active citizenship’ and for promoting critical and independent thinking and action in education.
The link between the cultural and material forces that shape our lives is a central concern in this project. We believe that tracing the origins and implications of our ways of seeing and being – and of our positions in the world - is fundamental in preparing individuals and communities to intervene responsibly towards justice, peace and equality. Addressing complexity, understanding interdependence and learning to question and use different modes of thinking may help learners see themselves as integral to the picture they are trying to change (both as part of the problem and the solution) and prevent the reproduction of mechanisms that generate or maintain the problems that are addressed.
Therefore, we have adopted an approach based on ‘communities of enquiry’ to create a methodology to structure ‘open spaces for dialogue and enquiry’ about social and global justice and our collective responsibility. In these spaces, learners can engage critically with their own and other people’s perspectives without being told what to think or what to do. Openness, in this case, refers to the collective aims of the group: rather than building a community based on an identity or an ideology, what binds the community together is a process of self-transformation, of ‘learning to live together’ (engagement and relationship with difference) and of imagining beyond our ‘selves’ and cultures. Reflection (thinking about assumptions), reflexivity (thinking about where assumptions come from and their implications) and enquiry are central strands of this process.