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?
  • 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 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?
  • 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.

* Among them: 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.