Lichtenstein, Jane (1); Nsanzabaganwa, Monique (2) (2017). '‘Connectedness’ and the capability approach: Middle managers as agents for change in a participative development strategy' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Key words: capabilities, participation, agency, connectedness, policy, Rwanda

If the success of a society is to be evaluated primarily by the freedoms that members of that society enjoy (Sen, 1999), then the proposed ‘connectedness’ model (Nsanzabaganwa, 2010[1]) may be evaluated by reference to its ability to operationalise the expansion of meaningful freedoms.  The model of ‘connectedness’ proposes the advancement of people-centred development gains, engaging directly with individuals’ own drive for change.

Connectedness, in this context, has two complementary dimensions for consideration.  First, connectedness implies that sound policies are rationally selected, with a focus on outcomes for people, rather than on outputs in a process.  Secondly, connectedness acknowledges the processes of communicating, inspiring, learning, adapting and ultimately convincing, as being integral to the development process.  This paper considers the policy maker - and all of those in the chain from conception to delivery - as part of an ecosystem for co-development (Ostrom, 1996).  In a connectedness model, no one is permitted to dissociate themselves from the problem.

The intended beneficiaries of ‘people first’ development (Chambers and Conway, 1991), delivered via a ‘connectedness’ model, clearly stand to gain real freedoms, within the terms of the capability approach.  Their agency is central to the process.  In addition there is a developmental impact on those who become mid-level implementers of policy.  The need, at the mid-level, to both ‘buy into’ the proposed development, and also then to sell a vision to others, is implied by the connectedness model.   The process of evaluating and taking ownership of developmental strategy in this way is potentially empowering at a personal level, enhancing that individual’s real freedoms, as well as those of the ultimate users of the developmental change.

The paper uses a series of interviews with mid-level local players (in both the public and private sectors) carried out in 2014 and 2015 in Rwanda.  The roles of the interviewees required them to interpret policy objectives relayed from the centre of commerce and government, and then to translate their understanding into direct, local implementation.  The interviews draw out the inevitable high demands on limited resources.  They also bring to light the emergence of a technically qualified, rapidly learning, middle-level network of technocratic capability in both the public and the private sectors, able to articulate clearly and implement systematically an understanding of policy priorities.  Capability in this context will have a direct bearing on a country’s ability to create meaningful institutional change on its own terms, using home-grown approaches (Cimoli, Dosi and Stiglitz, 2009)

The paper will draw together the ideas of connectedness and the lived experience of mid-level actors as they engage in policy transmission from the centre of government across a society – all with a view to expanding real freedoms at the individual or community level.  It will measure the characteristics and arrangements revealed by the interviews at the mid-level against the implied requirements of the connectedness model.  It will touch on the recognition of moral authority of leaders, and its importance in creating motivation for the day-to-day task of learning, internalising and delivering change.  It will draw out the personal commitment that individuals display – and consider how that matches up to the idea of participation in an ecosystem, as articulated in the connectedness model.

The paper will tentatively conclude that there is evidence of the connectedness model playing out, at least in part, amongst mid-level professionals in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.  The paper will conclude with observations about the participative nature of development strategies that seem to emerge from a connectedness approach – and will ask whether the adoption of such a model could, in itself, constitute ‘people first’ development and contribute to the flourishing of human capabilities.

[1] Dr Nsanzabaganwa is Vice Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda (the Central Bank), and she brings her insights to bear particularly in the context of a policy for financial inclusion as a core objective in Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.

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