Jim Hodgson

Journalist and activist

I am a journalist who has spent most of the past four decades working within or alongside social movements, international development organizations and churches. When I think about development assistance, I tend to think mostly in terms of building capacity for political and social change in the global South, and of building relationships to support such change among people and movements North and South. I identify with an approach to international development that emerges from social movements and emphasizes community participation and political engagement for health, education, employment, democracy, ecology and respect for diversity.

I am deeply grateful to countless people in a score of countries who showed me how they live and shared their dreams, and to my past employers* who encouraged me to learn and to share.

In our time, afflicted as we are by consequences of climate change and a global pandemic, different visions of development are in conflict.

  • What do we mean by development? Cooperation? Aid?
  • How can development be about culture and identity, and not just about economics?
  • What must we learn from the First Nations of the lands where we live? How do we overcome colonialism?
  • How do grassroots or popular movements hold governments to their promises?
  • Given climate change, can we even talk anymore about responsible production of oil and gas?
  • What do social movements say?
  • What do ordinary people say?
  • What vision can bring us together? How do we build alliances for change?
  • What does a “development” plan for the waterfront of Toronto, for example, have to do with it concepts like “sustainable development” or “human development?’

In this space, I will affirm the wisdom of people whose cultures and practices kept them alive for generations before the arrival of development experts. At the same time, I will show appreciation for the past 60 years or more of work by development practitioners who try to learn from the people with whom they work. I will not be gentle with those whose versions of development provide cover for exploitation. And I will point to alternative ways of working that are emerging, especially in the global South.

I am mostly a print journalist who is adapting still to this internet age, but there are a few places where you can see or hear me speak. Among them:

  • Jim Hodgson speaks about the situation in Colombia. TeleSur interview, 29 August 2019 (when some demobilized fighters took up arms again).
  • Jim Hodgson: Generating Rights for Communities Harmed by Mining. Science for Peace, University of Toronto: November 2013 (Focus on mining struggles in El Salvador and Guatemala). 
  • The Magnificast (a podcast that explores Christianity and the political left) has interviewed me in recent years about events in VenezuelaHaitiBolivia and Cuba.

* Past employers: The United Church of Canada, the Cuernavaca Centre for Intercultural Dialogue on Development, Catholic News Service, Common Frontiers, Canadian Council of Churches, and Catholic New Times.