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Individual Paper: Promoting degrowth in the North through temporary stays in the South?

Action research with young German adults returning from volunteering in Africa and Latin America

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Since 2008, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development offers a volunteer programme (weltwärts), through which young German adults can live in the Global South for 6 to 24 months, working in a local project and often living with a host family.

One of the programme’s objectives is to nurture the next generation of development workers. But what type of “development worker” is being nurtured? Does the programme reinforce problematic growth and development paradigms? Or does it enable a critical reflection of these paradigms and an exploration of alternatives? In other words: Can temporary stays in the Global South promote degrowth in the Global North?

Motivated by the scientific challenge to identify how the psychological barriers facing degrowth can be overcome, this study addresses these questions.

It draws on transformative learning theory, which holds that “distorting dilemmas”, such as living in a completely different context for a longer period, can instigate transformative learning processes that lead to transformed worldviews.

To facilitate and monitor this learning process, workshops, interviews, focus groups, and surveys are used at two five-day seminars for 37 young German adults shortly after their return from volunteering in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Kenya, Peru, and South Africa. They are designed as a space for critically assessing the growth and development paradigms and for creatively exploring alternatives and envisioning better futures.

Potential outcomes are that people who have lived in the Global South especially embrace the degrowth arguments based in climate justice and development critique, but that they are more willing to support fair growth or green growth instead of degrowth as alternatives to the current growth paradigm.

This research holds significant value for the degrowth discourse. Firstly, it advances understanding of how the psychological barriers facing degrowth can be overcome. Secondly, it identifies degrowth arguments that resonate best with people from the Global North who have lived in the Global South. Thirdly, it tests the potential of applying transformative learning theory to the degrowth context. And finally, it explores how education can contribute to the degrowth movement.


Day: 2018-08-24
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF (209)
Track: Degrowth: Culture, Power and Change



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