11.005 | Spring 2015 | Undergraduate

Introduction to International Development


Mini Essays

Students will complete three mini-essays at the end of Units 1, 2, and 3. The deadline for submission is the first day of class of the subsequent unit. The goal of these essays is to give students an opportunity to reflect upon the issues discussed in class during each unit.

Mini Essay 1: Reflection on Unit 1—Unlearning Development (Length: 750–1000 words)

Please choose your favorite topic among the five classes in Unit 1 and explain how it transformed the way you think about development. You must refer to both the required readings assigned for the class, as well as the topics discussed during the class discussions.

Mini Essay 2: Reflection on Unit 2—Development: From Theories to Strategies (Length: 1000–1250 words)

Please choose two classes from Unit 2. Explain the development strategy of “Period A” and how it transitioned to the strategies or situation of “Period B.” For example, you could explain how the developmental state led to the debt crisis or how the debt crisis led to the Washington Consensus. Incorporate at least two graphs (from Google Data Explorer or another public opinion database of your preference) to illustrate your arguments. You should cite the required readings of the classes you chose to focus on as references in your mini essay.

Mini Essay 3: Reflection on Unit 3—Connecting Institutions, Organizations, and Projects (Length: 750–900 words)

Please choose one class from Unit 3 (private sector, the public sector, NGOs, etc.). Then, select one organization from your chosen sector (FAO or UNICEF from the private sector, national government or local government from the public sector, OXFAM or MSF from NGOs, etc.) and select an initiative promoted by that organization within the past ten years. Assess the pros and cons of the intervention based on the conceptual framework we discussed in class:

  • Part 1: Explain the nature of the problem the intervention is trying to address
  • Part 2: Assess the comparative advantage of the organization in solving the problem
  • Part 3: Find evidence of performance (to the best of your ability)
  • Part 4: Explore the trade-offs involved in the intervention

While Parts 1–3 are essential, most of the essay should be focused on Part 4.

Example Outline

Part 1

  • Child nutrition is one of the most pressing developmental challenges in the 21st century. Bangladesh is one of the countries that had shown the greatest progress in the past few years, but there is a still lot to do in terms of developing permanent institutional capacity in the country.

Part 2

  • UNICEF established a program in Bangladesh in 2012 on reducing child malnutrition. The organization has a mandate for working with child-related issues and a long track record projects in this area.

Part 3

  • According to their 2013 report available online, they managed to reduce malnutrition by 20%.

Part 4

  • The results demonstrated by UNICEF are impressive: In a short period of time, they managed to promote a significant reduction of malnutrition in the country.
  • On the other hand, the approach used does not give priority to in-country ownership, so it is likely that the structural problems happening in the country will continue to affect the wellbeing of the children living there.
  • As an international organization, UNICEF has the experience and expertise to address child-related issues successfully, but as an international organization it still struggles to generate permanent change as an “outsider.”
  • A more effective dialogue with the local government is necessary to change this situation. There are examples of this “new” kind of partnership being used by other development organizations, such as the NGO Partners in Health, which has a very successful program in Uganda to promote local government ownership. Perhaps a partnership between the two organizations could point to creative ways in which the project in Bangladesh can generate better outcomes in the future.