International Grassroots Development

RC 360 Sec. 2 Winter 1997
(Fulfills ECB Jr./Sr. writing requirement)
Dr. Helen Fox
Office Hours - by appointment. 1128 Angell Hall or in various coffee shops

Required Reading: Coursepack available at Dollar Bill
Highly Recommended Reading:
Isbister, John. 1993. Promises not kept: The betrayal of social change in the Third World. Second Edition. Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.
Vandermeer, John and Ivette Perfecto (1995), Breakfast of biodiversity: The truth about rainforest destruction. Oakland, CA: Institute for Food and Development Policy.
World Wide Web: Fourth World Documentation Project Home Page: (and related pages)
Various Websites on human rights, women's issues, sustainable development, various third and fourth world cultures, religions, etc.


In this course, I would like to engage you in thinking about some questions that have been on my mind ever since I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in India in 1964 -- What is "development"? What could it be? Who has the right, or the duty, or maybe the privilege to help others in their "development"? Can the world really be "developed" or improved, or do we just substitute new problems for the ones we had?

As I work with international students and faculty and do "development" work, both at home and abroad, I continue to think and write about these questions. I do have some answers, at least for myself, and these answers have led me to a particular style of teaching, one which engages the students as much as possible in thinking things out for themselves and coming up with their own ideas about how to achieve a just world.

I don't like lecturing much, though sometimes I will give you some background or help you clarify the many, confusing viewpoints of authors you'll be reading. I love to write, and I expect that you do to, or that you will like it better as you work on some of the questions I ask you to write about -- or that you will pose for yourselves and your classmates.

This will not be an easy course; my standards for writing, thinking, and active participation are quite high. You can be sure that I will challenge you in class and in conference; I will expect you to challenge me as well. There will be few "right answers," few "right ways" to do an assignment, though I will give you, I hope, clear guidelines.

Course Goals:

* To understand that "development" takes many forms, each of which may be based on different assumptions, philosophies, ideas of history and culture, and views of human potential and human needs

* To become acquainted with some global issues, social protests and "development" projects as they affect and are affected by people at the grassroots level

* To understand the major strands of the "development debate" in economic, political, social and cultural terms and to use this knowledge to come to a personal idea of what "development" should mean and how it should be practiced

* To learn how to get involved in grassroots development, both globally or locally

The course will be divided into three parts:

Part I What's the problem? What's the solution?
In Part I we will listen to a variety of voices-in-writing from both the "north" and the "south" suggesting how development is supposed to work and why it has so often failed to live up to expectations. We will hear from western economists and political figures, development agencies and development practitioners, social critics, anthropologists (both live and fictional), journalists and professors. As well, we will hear voices from the south -- voices that have been increasing, recently, in sophistication and power: heads of government, philosophers, novelists, academics, lawyers, and some successful and committed development practitioners. From this cacophony of voices you will emerge with an understanding of the different strands of the debate and come to tentative conclusions about what makes sense to you. This thinking will eventually become part of a final paper that will detail what, in your opinion, "good development" should look like.
At the same time you are discovering where you stand you will also be refining your ability to look at the world from the point of view of those who come from backgrounds very different from your own. To this end, you will choose a novel or autobiography written by someone who lives in and/or identifies with a "developing" country or fourth world "nation," and write from their perspective about what they see as "the problem." Learning to look at problems from the perspectives of the people experiencing them is one of the most important skills you can learn if you want to work for peace and justice anywhere in the world.

Paper #1 My idea of "good development" (First thoughts: 3-5 pages).
Paper #2 What's "the problem"? (A "creative" piece. Av. 5 pages, with substantial revisions).

Part II Issues, Projects and Protests -- Student-led group presentations.
Students will work in groups to research and present specific examples of significant issues, protests or development projects to the rest of the class. Examples might be the impact of the global AIDS epidemic on women's health and human rights; environmental concerns arising from the construction of hydroelectric dams in India or China; the question of indigenous people's rights to the profits from patents on their traditional medicines, etc. Examples of significant development projects might be the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh that lends money to women's small business cooperatives; the Citizenship schools in the U.S. South that resulted in the right to vote for many poor blacks in the Civil Rights era, specific attempts at ecotourism or rainforest preservation in Latin America, and so on. Each group presentation will take a two-hour class period and might involve readings, discussion, short film clips, guest speakers, experiential activities -- whatever it takes to make the subject come alive and impart substantial, specific information as well as involving the class in critical analysis.

Part III: Planning for Action: Working in the Global Neighborhood

Almost everyone who has taken this class over the past five years felt one over-riding concern: "What am I going to do with my life? How can I help advance the cause of social and economic justice? Where can I get some experience, and learn the more practical issues of organizing, facilitating, grant writing, working across cultures and classes with people in poor communities? Where do I, as a privileged person, fit in to grassroots development, either locally or internationally? This part of the course should help you with these questions and give you experiences and options. Speakers on internship and work opportunities, visits to actual grassroots action projects in Detroit organized by African American churches, Latino community centers, and UM AmeriCorps, dialogues with RC grads and others who have started on social justice careers will be the focus. Your ideas for how to set this up and what you want to get out of it will be very welcome.

Paper #3
: My idea of "good development." (10-15 pages, completely rethought and revised from Paper #1).

Major Writing Assignments:
Papers #1 and #3 "My idea of good development" This paper will be done in two parts. Near the beginning of the course you will write your first, tentative ideas about what you believe "good development" should be. This paper will be three to five pages long and will be passed to other students for written comments and questions. I will then read and give suggestions for a revised version, to be written as a final paper. This kind of revision is literally re-vision; your ideas may be substantially modified or completely changed, or your former position will have been made stronger by the addition of reasons -- evidence that you have gained from the readings and reflections you have done during the course. (3-5 pages, completely revised at the end of course to 10-15 pages)

Paper #2 "What's "The Problem"? For this paper you will read a work (preferably a novel) of your own choosing written by a third world author in order to understand the author's view of "the problem" (Check selection with me first). You will then write a paper that presents "the problem" as your author (or the novel's characters) see it. Be creative! You may write in any style whatsoever, as long as you address "the problem" and are aware of the needs of your audience (myself and your classmates). Revision is required after audience reaction. An individual conference with me is required before or during rewrite. (Av. 5 pages, with substantial revisions)

In-Class Writing Assignments:
Everyone (including myself) may spend some time writing during several of our class sessions. Each writing task will address the day's topic in some way. None of the questions will have a "right" answer, but all will draw upon the readings and previous class discussions. I will collect and comment on all writing, but will not grade it. All of this writing should appear in your portfolio (see Assessment, below).

Part I: What's the Problem? What's the Solution?

Thurs. Jan. 9 Session 1 Introduction to the course

Tues. Jan. 14 Session 2

Thurs. Jan. 16 Session 3

Weekend at some convenient time: Video of Salaam Bombay (Location to be determined -- I'd like to have you over to my new apartment but I may be still knee- deep in boxes). Attendance recommended for all, but especially for those who have never visited the "third world." This highly acclaimed feature film, made by an Indian woman film-maker, will help give you a concrete idea of the kind of issues and problems we will be discussing in developing countries world-wide.

Tues. Jan. 21 Session 4

Thurs. Jan. 23 Session 5

Tues. Jan. 28 Session 6

Thurs. Jan. 30 Session 7 DUE: Paper #1: First try at Final Paper
"My idea of good development"
Tues. Feb. 4 Session 8

Thurs. Feb. 6 Session 9

Tues. Feb. 11 Session 10

Thurs. Feb. 13 Session 11

Tues. Feb. 18 Session 12

Thurs. Feb. 20 Session 13 DUE: Paper #2 What's "the problem" in the third or fourth world?
Tues. Feb. 25 Session 14

Thurs. Feb. 27 Session 15


Part II: Issues, Projects, and Protests: Student-facilitated group presentations

Tues. Mar. 11 Session 16 Introduction to the issues

Thurs. Mar. 13 Session 17 Preparation for presentations (I will be out of town)

Tues. Mar. 18 Session 18 Group 1

Thurs. Mar. 20 Session 19 Group 2

Tues. Mar. 25 Session 20 Group 3

Thurs. Mar. 27 Session 21 Group 4

Part III: Planning for Action: Working in the Global Neighborhood

(We may decide to substitute a weekend day or other half-days for several class periods in order to visit grassroots projects in Detroit)

Tues. April 1 Session 22

Thurs. April 3 Session 23

Tues. April 8 Session 24

Thurs. April 10 Session 25

Tues. April 15 Session 26

Thurs. April 17 Session 27

Tues. April 22 Session 28 PORTFOLIOS DUE -- All drafts of Papers #1, 2, 3 and all other written work (see Assessment, below). Brunch and last discussion/course evaluation. (Location to be determined.)

Your writing assignments will not be graded; I feel that grades often stifle the critical thinking, creativity and risk-taking that are necessary to the writing process. You may endlessly revise (and I will endlessly comment on) any or all of assignments if you want to re-think them or express your ideas more smoothly and precisely. Your writing in this course will be evaluated by PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT. You are responsible for placing all your written work, including ALL DRAFTS of your major writing assignments and ALL IN-CLASS WRITING in a folder and handing it in on Tuesday, APRIL 22, the last day of the course. Please keep a list of these papers as they are assigned so you will be sure to have everything required in your portfolio. Your grade will be determined by the quality and depth of the writing and the quantity and nature of the revisions as well as the work you have put into your group presentation and your participation in other learning activities such as site visits and class discussion.

My Expectations