Unearthing Capabilities: Policy and development practice from a Timorese perspective of the good life.

Will, Matthew Steve (1); Marx, Susan (2) (2016). 'Unearthing Capabilities: Policy and development practice from a Timorese perspective of the good life.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract Unearthing Capabilities: Policy and development practice from a Timorese perspective of the good life.    This research was conducted to engage a diverse group of Timorese to think together about the meaning of the good life to create a robust and grounded list of capabilities for policy and development practice for the Asia Foundation.  Flourishing and the good life exist when people’s domains in all areas—collectively and individually—are freely expressed and experienced. To flourish, people need the opportunity to co-create and develop their domains and choice to change their behavior towards fulfilling these same domains. This research used the Capabilities Approach to guide the design. The Capabilities Approach can be applied to both increase justice (Sen, 2009) and influence the economy (Sen, 1999; Nussbaum 1996; Alkire, 2002), which is a strength of the approach.  People’s beings and doings are the ‘ends’ of the economy or justice system.  Other parts within the economy or justice system are the “means” to achieve the ends.  The research used an iterative research framework guided by Grounded Theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008) to ensure data reflected the perspective of a diverse group of citizens.  Focus Group Discussions (N=6) were used to create public reason (Sen, 2008, p. 25) about the good life.  Key Informant Interviews (N=32) were used to create Public Reflective Equilibrium (2007, “2.3 Evaluating Nussbaum’s Account,” para. 3) and saturate the emerging understanding of flourishing.  Participants were chosen based on diversity and vulnerability.  People with disabilities, women, youth, urban residents, rural residents, non-government, and government leaders participated in the research. The research used Wolff and de Shalit (2007) as a reference during the analysis to inform-but not dictate-the emerging list. This helped strike a balance between being guided by universal principals of capabilities and ensuring the research was grounded in the Timorese context. The list of flourishing domains included: Influencing one’s system;living in a law-abiding fashion; having consciousness; living in harmony with the environment; having physical health; having bodily integrity; being personally independent; thinking, creating and expressing; connecting with others; having emotion; and providing for self and others.  Six potential cross-cutting trends that impact people’s capabilities were derived from the research: Remote geography hampers the development of people’s capabilities. Desires for national security as compared to human security impacts who people want to lead them.  The circle of care impacts all parts of people’s lives. Hierarchy hampers people’s voices and economic engagement opportunity.  Access to the market, unequal competition and unclear value-chains impact people’s capability to provide for themselves and others. How land tenure is decided and divided leads to peace or conflict impacting the whole of people’s lives.       The research developed the following recommendations to ensure the research is used for policy formation and development practice:    Develop an index that measures the level of deprivation for each capability indicator and well-being as a whole. Measure which capabilities are considered corrosive disadvantages. Use the newly developed index to track capability deprivation or fulfillment over time. Develop a research and policy agenda based on the capabilities list and specific capabilities. Use the capabilities framework to create a common strategic organizational framework that can be used across programming.   Key Words: Policy, localized capabilities, methodology, operationalizing capabilities, behaivor change

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