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Development from Within

Authors: Varun Vidyarthi & Patricia A Wilson

Reviewed by: Simon Duffy

Varun Vidyarthi and his wife Amla have been at the roots of a powerful movement for social change which has swept India and is having a powerful influence in many other countries. In this book he collaborates with the US academic Patricia Wilson to describe the thinking and practice that underpins his work and the work of Manavodaya.

The book is rich with ideas and experiences. It brings home to a Westerner that for many poverty is not relative, it is absolute: many millions of people have no financial assets, no income security, no land and are often subject to exploitation and discrimination. 

Yet there is hope, and hope does not begin with outsiders sweeping into 'save the day'. Hope begins when people - together - realise that they do have a powerful set of assets - themselves.

But even mobilising one's own self, or working with friends, family or neighbours, starts with a journey from within - hence the title: Development from Within.

This is only the starting point, but it is an essential starting point for sustainable change. Without hope, faith in oneself and the ability to work closely with those around us, progress is impossible.

The book explores many aspects of making this positive change. It describes how Manavodaya has been one of the leaders in promoting systems of micro-credit: people, the poorest of the poor, doing banking for themselves.

It explores the kind of group facilitation required to enable people to begin to trust and take individual and collective risks. These are not slick or mechanical processes - they demand resilience, honesty and integrity at every level. Things go wrong, people lose faith - but through this very process, through struggle, they also begin to understand that positive change is really possible.

To read some of the stories is humbling. The kinds of problems people face seem to dwarf those that we face in the West. But some common themes emerge. It is interesting to compare this book with Noel Pearson's essay - Radical Hope. There is the same rejection of the politics of pity, the same demand for self-discipline, temperance and a direct challenge to domestic violence, drug-taking, smoking and swearing.

Out of this process Manavodaya, building upon the collective reflection of hundreds and thousands of self help groups, has created Eight Steps in Action a powerful innovation which can provide food for thought for everyone struggling to achieve social justice.

Development from Within is available to buy through our store.


The publisher is Xlibris.

Development from Within © Varun Vidyarthi and Patricia A Wilson 2008.

Review of Development from Within © Simon Duffy 2011.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.