Development brings about changes in people’s lives and their ways of understanding and dealing with their world. It is possible to distinguish between two types of development intervention: (a) improvements in the external situation, chiefly through the provision of public goods; and (b) strengthening people’s inner capacities, an endeavour which depends on cognitive processes. The article links basic concepts from cognitive theory to development practice and proposes avenues for further research to study the way in which people develop their capacities and to find ways of supporting such processes. A fuller understanding of cognitive change as a key factor could greatly enhance the sustainability of development projects.
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