Avenues of change: A study of development and social change with a focus on organizational strategies and structures

Plan Author

  • Kelsa Summer, 2013

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Tutorial: The Changing Relationship Between Business and Social Good: Seeing Business as a Solution
  • Tutorial: Market-Based Approaches to Development: Social Entrepreneurship and Beyond

Project Description

A study of the economics and politics of development and social change with a focus on organizational forms, incorporating fieldwork from South Africa and Kenya.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Jim Tober
  • Lynette Rummel

Outside Evaluator

  • Jim Levinson, Adjunct Associate Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University


The past 40 years have seen significant innovations in the distribution of international development funds. Beyond simply distributing aid, new trends from corporate social responsibility (CSR) to low-profit LLCs have introduced market forces to development and made it a priority for large corporations. Additionally, the emergence of microcredit and small-scale development organizations (DOs) have made it possible for smaller groups to drive powerful change in their local communities. This Plan looks at the strategies and structures of these various development programs, and examines how their work contributes to social justice in the Global South.

Small-scale DOs, such as Vulamasango kindergarten in Cape Town, were studied in-depth during the author’s research trip to South Africa and Kenya. Providing a “bottom-up” approach to development, DOs are run locally and support their community on a daily basis using funds from national governments and Western donors. Microfinance programs, such as Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, provide the global poor with small, no-collateral loans that serve as seed capital for their small businesses.

Rich-world programs and corporations also play a part in the Global South’s development. From fair trade brands to socially-oriented businesses, consumer preferences and new business models are driving companies to push for positive social change both globally and locally. While none of these systems are perfect, working together they have enormous potential to reduce global poverty.


“Placing living conditions and quality of life at the center of a definition of development is important because it refocuses the debate towards millions of people living in poverty in the global south. Therefore development, as understood by this paper, means the improvement of living conditions and future prospects of all people in a country’s population over the long term.”

“Voluntary organizations promote the values and the skills necessary to maintain a healthy democracy. The garden started by the Center for Catholic Welfare and Development in Cape Town is not just there to provide fresh vegetables, but also to offer people in the community an opportunity to come together and create something positive for themselves and each other.”

“Social businesses are non-loss, non-dividend organizations whose primary goal is not to maximize profit but to achieve a social benefit. If a social business earns profits, it does not distribute them to shareholders or other owners – instead, they are reinvested into the company.”


“Although each part of my Plan work was valuable and exciting, what I remember most is the guidance and support provided by my sponsors throughout the process.”