2. Assuring plural relevance

A few key questions should guide all decisions during the policy making process of any development initiative: what do we mean when we talk about development? whose development are we talking about?

These questions are precisely what pluralistic relevance refers to:

-How do development initiatives directly affect the lives of those they supposedly address?

-Who are they actually being addressed to?

-To what extent are they enhancing people’s choices to be and do what they have reason to value? (see capability approach)

-To what extent are they relevant to the needs, interests, conditions, priorities, philosophies, and working approaches of the different actors?


That is, to what extent are they plurally relevant?

In a sense, the assumption that development initiatives must be relevant to all (which is what the international sustainable development agenda pursues) is a question of principle, of legitimacy, – of an ethic that respects humans dignity; the right to choose the kind of life people want to live and take action and responsibility for it.

However, pluralistic relevance is also important for initiatives’ effective outcomes in sustainable development as a matter of practicality. Individuals are not immune to the interests of their community. The community in turn cannot ignore national level dynamics that negotiate its interests with those of their fellow citizens, and, through international organizations, citizens of other nations.

These individuals are the reason for such negotiations, which in terms of their own agendas adopt or reject their resolutions, modify them, give them meaning. Thus, diversity and unity are both realities of human organizational systems, which forces us to take our attention to the relevance that policies render at different levels, as well as to the interests and needs that originate them. That is, to the causes and the impacts that society’s organizational processes have, both at an aggregate and at an individual level, because they all interact and influence each other.

Plural relevance fosters equitable ownership, and with it, sustainability. Once people’s needs and interests are considered they are more likely to appropriate development initiatives and become responsible agents rather than passive beneficiaries of them. This in turn increases the chances of people advocating for what they need and want. This in turn seeds the ground for perfecting the design and implementation of a richer set of opportunities that is more effective for all.

Specific measures must be taken to assure pluralistic relevance. Actions to:

– adapt global agendas to local contexts and vice versa;

– neutralize top-down policy schemes with bottom up solutions.

– customize best-practices to contexts in which they are implemented.

– plan so that the interests and needs of all groups and generations are taken into account.

create and promote integrative responses.

motivate and capitalize on local ownership.

-offer an education with plural relevance.

Many of these require of creating ad hoc ♣ methods for the selection of objectives and priorities for the initiative. All require paying special attention to who benefits from the initiative and who is making the decisions. Planning self-sustainability to balance the negotiations with external actors is crucial.

For strategies on how to purposely promote plural relevance see:

♣ Assuring plural relevance


Methods for the selection of objectives and priorities

See also:

Creating and promoting integrative responses

Motivating and capitalizing on local ownership

Planning self-sustainability

Prioritizing relevant education and technical training 

Feedback mechanisms

Structures and techniques for local participation, organization and negotiation

Equity measures: prioritizing disadvantaged

Human capital

Information and communication technology tools