Social development is about transforming societies by understanding the social context of the country as well as the needs and priorities of poor people. Poor people's own voices tell us that poverty is more than low income - it is also about vulnerability, exclusion and isolation, unaccountable institutions, and powerlessness.
Social development encompasses cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of societies and leads to more equitable and sustainable development. Social development enables both formal and informal institutions as well as private sector organizations to collaborate in delivering pro poor services and in enhancing the voice and decision-making powers of the poor. There is now widespread evidence, including from other donors, that social development matters. World Bank reviews undertaken by the Operations Evaluation Department and the Quality Assurance Group, found that social development inputs not only improve social development outcomes but also improve the overall success and quality of projects and programs.
Therefore, the World Bank’s Social Development Strategy emphasizes that overcoming poverty is about more than getting economic policies right; it is also about empowering people by creating more inclusive, cohesive, and accountable societies. Social development therefore, empowers people by transforming institutions into entities that are:
Inclusive—promote equal access to opportunity for every citizen
Cohesive—work together to address common needs, overcome obstacles, and balance diverse interests
Accountable—become transparent in all their operations and provide information to all segments of society, therefore becoming more responsive to people’s needs.
The result is that social development promotes:
Better growth – Social development is a precondition for sustained, equitable growth. Where the benefits of growth are more widely shared, societies tend to be more stable and peaceful.
Better projects and policies – Where projects and policies build on local contexts and include people, they are more likely to be owned and sustained. Therefore, social development makes good business sense for the World Bank.
Better quality of life – If citizens are able to participate and feel that they have a greater stake, development interventions are more effective.
The Social Development Window of the TFESSD was established to provide the opportunities for innovation and experimentation to move the agenda of social development forward. The activities range from operational support (such as community driven development, social inclusion and accountability) to analytical and policy work (such as Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA) and Country Social Analysis). The newest initiatives involve the introduction of social development into Development Policy Lending, Country Assistance Strategies and Poverty Reduction Strategies. Activities in all these areas aim to enhance in-country capacity.
In addition to addressing a broad range of social development issues, the social window activities are increasingly cutting across sectoral boundaries, and integrating rural, environmental, and poverty concerns.
Please see information on specific projects in the links below. Links to general Social Development activities and issues can be found in the box on the right.
"At the start of the 21st century, while many people around the world benefit from increased flows of goods, capital and information, too many others confront seemingly intractable challenges. . . . [M]any of these social groups have been unable to tap into the prosperity that others enjoy, often because they are unable to hold those in power accountable….[W]e must break this vicious cycle, adopting comprehensive and inclusive strategies that empower poor and marginalized people to take advantage of burgeoning global opportunities."
—SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY