© 2017

Reinventing Development

The Sceptical Change Agent


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxv
  2. Adam Fforde
    Pages 1-26
  3. Development and Its Facts

  4. Development and Its Meanings

  5. The Reinvention of Development: Managing Ignorance and Diversity

  6. Conclusion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 241-241
    2. Adam Fforde
      Pages 243-259
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 261-288

About this book


This book debunks the foundations of contemporary government-led development policy. The author questions the predictability of success when using mainstream development doctrines and its underlying assumptions, approaching development from a sceptical standpoint, as opposed to the more common optimistic view. The book uses international development and aid as a case study of how rich countries define how change should happen. Further, it suggests alternative ways of thinking about and organizing social change.


Development Right to scepticism Sceptical change agent Predictable development Welfare History of development Mainstream development

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic StudiesVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia

About the authors

Adam Fforde is a Professorial Fellow at the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University, Australia. He was an advisor to the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, and from 1992-2013 ran his development consultancy, Adam Fforde and Assoc, p/l.

Bibliographic information


“Mainstream approaches to development can often have unintended consequences that result in doing serious violence to the systems and peoples they are intended to assist. In this important and timely volume, Fforde sets out a cautionary tale that explores the origins of the misguided epistemologies informing development interventions. He also offers creative alternatives, emphasising the need to work with local social epistemologies and accommodate diversity and complexity in the design of development interventions. Fforde is one of the most original thinkers in the field and this book certainly delivers on its promise to ‘reinvent development’. I commend it to students, scholars and practitioners alike.” (Peter Case, Professor of Management, James Cook University, Australia)

“This book is not an easy read. However for those willing to engage with its contents it will reward them with a healthily critical and sceptical perspective on not just international development but public policy more broadly.  At the heart of Fforde’s critique is that nearly all ‘interventions’ are premised on assumptions of knowable cause-effect relationships.  The author claims a ‘right to scepticism’ and a right, in chosen circumstances, to organise as though there is no predictive knowledge of ‘what will cause what’.  Fforde offers an important and critical challenge to some of the fundamental assumptions upon which policy makers, funders and bureaucrats make decisions.” (Chris Roche, Chair in International Development, La Trobe University, Australia)