Development is a term used to describe growth, progress, and positive change in an individual or society. It can also refer to the expansion or improvement of a region’s economy, infrastructure, social services, and quality of life without damaging natural resources. The development sector includes international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank, but it can also be found on a smaller scale in local communities, companies, or non-governmental organisations.
Several assumptions underlie the study of development. For example, some researchers believe that people’s developmental pathways are governed by an innate or immutable set of traits and characteristics. This assumption, known as maturational meta-theory, is the basis of some behavioral genetics, sociobiology, ethological, and neuropsychological theories. Other researchers, such as Vygotsky and information processing theorists, believe that humans learn by interacting with their environment and adapting to it over time. They also assume that certain environments, activities, or experiences may have more of an impact on some people than others.
Finally, other researchers such as Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have developed the capability approach to development which emphasizes empowering people through granting freedom of economic, social, and family action. This perspective suggests that the fruits of development should be distributed more equitably and that governments should seek to empower civil society rather than consolidate their power over large economic interest groups. This requires a greater focus on decentralization, the strengthening of democratic and indigenous cultures, and the fostering of social movements which reflect the needs of the masses.