You are on page 1of 6


Social development occurs slowly over time. It is mostly an unconscious phenomenon that occurs on an irregular basis, with zigs and zags, with forward motions and setbacks. On the other hand, if one were to discover the process of how social development occurs, and utilize this process in developing policies, strategies, and action plans for society, we could eliminate the irregularities and meanderings of social development, eliminate the negatives that block its path, and more positively control its ever accelerating course.

Defining Development
First let's be clear about what we actually mean by "development." Development can be distinguished from a closely related term, "growth." Just like development, growth is a form of progress, yet development is of a higher order. Think of growth as an expansion of more of the same, whereas development is an expansion at a higher level. Whereas growth is an expansion at the current level, development is an expansion at a new, unprecedented level. For example, in business we might think of growth as a duplication of a retail store model into dozens of franchise operations; whereas development was the actual development of the franchise concept in the first place. Development is more of a movement to a higher qualitative level, whereas growth is a quantitative movement. In the broadest sense development can be defined as an upward directional movement of society from lesser to greater levels of energy, efficiency, quality, productivity, complexity, comprehension, creativity, enjoyment and accomplishment.

Making Development Conscious

As we mentioned earlier development is a mostly unconscious movement that happens on its own. However, if we were able to understand the process, make it conscious in our minds, and act from this awareness we can dramatically accelerate development, and pave the way for society's progress. In other words, the more conscious we are of the process, the greater the possibility for rapid, obstacle-free progress. (By the way we have discovered along the way that whenever any initiative in life, whether personal or social begins with a conscious awareness of an underlying process, it dramatically increases the likelihood of successful outcomes.)

Three Stages of Development

Our research on the process of development over the last thirty years suggest that there are three essential stages in the process of development. In the first stage the society is prepared to move to a higher level of development through its surplus energies, awareness of possibilities, and its aspiration to see the possibilities through. In the second stage pioneer individuals in society express the aspiration in various ways. Finally, in the third stage the initiative of pioneering individuals are accepted, organized, and integrated in society. Let's then understand each of these three phases in greater detail.

Stage 1: Social Preparedness Energy

One way a society can be measured is by its level of energy. A society can grow so long as it has the energy to do so. However it can't begin to develop until it has a surplus of energy. Surplus energy is available only when the society is not fully absorbed in meeting the challenges of existence at the current level, and has a surplus of energy to move to another level. An example of this in history would be cultures that have developed their agriculture to the point where they are ready to explore trading opportunities with others, or move toward industrialization. New ideas and technology are also symptomatic of surplus energy, as are companies and other organizations that are expanding very rapidly (such as those in Silicon Valley).

The surplus energy expresses initially in society as increasing thought and discussion about new possibilities, an urge for innovation and improvement, and growing dissatisfaction with the status quo. Most importantly it expresses through society's awareness of new opportunities and challenges. The speed and reliability of information in recent years is accelerating society's awareness of possibilities. Whether it be the world's 60,000 newspapers or Gorbachev's policy of glasnost at the end of the Cold War (i.e. openness to new ideas), the importance of the awareness of

possibilities is the driving force that can turn the surplus energy in society into a new reality for development.

Surplus energy provides the fuel for progress and society's awareness of possibilities sets the direction for progress. Still the society needs to react to these possibilities -- i.e. it needs to have an aspiration to really want to see these possibilities come about. Just as an individual who wants to achieve something needs to have an aspiration when presented with possibilities and opportunities, so society needs to have an aspiration for achieving the possibilities and opportunities if development is ever to actually occur. Aspiration to go to a higher level can be retarded by some factors and increased by others. For example, societies that feel superior, or self satisfied are less likely to want to move to the next higher level. Societies may also not have an aspiration to move forward because they think it's beyond their means and capabilities. If feelings of superiority or inadequacy prevent or dull aspiration for a society, other societal attitudes can increase aspiration. For one, social pressure from others or the outside can be a great spur to aspiration. A classic example of the former is the farmer who will only dig a well only after he sees that others around him have already done so. An example of the latter is a country that is forced to change by the sheer influence of another as in the case of the reaction of Americans who in the 1980s saw the Japanese begin to move ahead in major industrial areas. In summary then we can say that surplus energy, awareness of opportunities, and aspiration for advancement are pre-conditions that prepare society for new development initiatives. Though this is not exactly a linear process and these factors may tend to spiral back on one other, they are the required conditions that need to be in place so that there is the necessary social preparedness for development.

Stage 2: Initiation -- Role of Pioneer Individuals

Though the society may be prepared for its ascent to a higher level of development, there still needs to be some agent to express this in action. That is the role of pioneering individuals. They

are people who are willing to break out from the existing mold and try something new. Through their conscious action, they express some aspect of the aspirations that the society is only partially or subconsciously aware of. The pioneer is usually not a radical, outcast, or piranha in society, but rather shares its aspirations, knowledge and values to a large degree. Whether it be the two young men who helped start Apple Computer in a garage, setting the stage for a whole new level of technology, or the one farmer among others who dares to accept a loan to dig water wells in rural India when others are afraid to be the first ones, the pioneer breaks with the mold, yet stands within, not outside of the social environment, charting a new course or revealing a new possibility. Next the society needs to have a positive response to the pioneer's initiative. If the pioneer is too far ahead of his time, society will often act negatively or with indifference.) On the other hand, if the pioneer's initiative is in tune with society's aspiration and preparedness, it inspires others to take up the same or newer initiatives. Then the pioneer's initiatives get multiplied throughout society, unleashing a movement of development. For example, if other like-minded farmers in rural India take up the pioneer's acceptance of loans to dig water wells, development begins to ripple through the village and community. When other hackers saw Apple Computers first personal computers demonstrated at the Homebrew computer club, they were inspired to follow, developing related or even new technologies as a result. For those involved in their occupation in social development (economists, educators, politicians, planners, etc.), knowing how to create the appropriate conditions for unleashing the multiplier effect off of the pioneer individual's initiative is essential for formulating effective planned development strategies.

Stage 3: Acceptance and Assimilation

Finally, the initiatives of the pioneer needs to become fully accepted and organized by society as a whole.

Acceptance Through New Forms of Organization

Acceptance begins when the pioneer's initiative is incorporated within existing or new organizational structures in society. Society normally organizes life by laws, regulations, systems, and accepted sets of practices. What is particularly interesting is that the pioneer's initiative which creates the spark for development actually leads to the emergence of a host of new, more complex organizations designed to support it and puts pressure on existing organizations to elevate their functioning to meet the higher demands of the new phase. For example, in the last fifty years we have seen a number of pioneering initiatives in society that were then matched by new organizational structures, such as franchising, credit rating, credit card, ATM banking services, and many others. Now with the advent of the Internet whole new organizational structures are being developed to support the initiatives of those who originally brought the Internet into the public consciousness, including ways to register web site domains, new types of contracts and relationships with service providers, new forms of business to business commerce, and endless others.

Lack of Organization
Often there are instances where a pioneer's initiative is not matched by new organizational structures, causing development to fail. When the countries of Eastern Europe began the transition from centrally planned to market economies, they lacked a very wide range of supporting structures and practices needed for a market system to operate effectively. Russia in particular has suffered from this problem. In Russia's case not only weren't there any new organizational structures to help it in its transition, but too many of the old ones that were essential for a stable transition to the free market system were dismantled, leading to an arid environment for the sprouting of a market-driven economy.

One form of organization for the undertaking's of society that is nearly universally acknowledge is education. When the society is really serious about supporting the new development it begins to provide formal education in areas related to the initiative. For example, we have seen a

tremendous amount of formal education and training in recent years in the areas of personal computing and the Internet.

At a further stage, the society accepts and assimilates the new undertakings to such a degree that it no longer requires the support of specialized organizations, policies or laws to promote it. The activity becomes a part of the normal way the society functions; i.e. it becomes a way of life. It matures from organization to institutionalization

Cultural Transmission by Family

At an even more advanced stage in the maturation of a new social activity, the family assumes an active role in its propagation. Once a new activity has been accepted as desirable by wide sections of the population, families assume an increasing role in equipping the next generation with knowledge, skills and attitudes supportive of the activity. When an activity has matured to the point that family plays a very active role in its transmission, the activity has become a part of the culture of the society.