Book Talk: Paradox in the Contrivance of Human Development by Robert Kowalkski

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Education reform has been a pressing issue for ages, it has been discussed, ideas have been tested, and then revised, and so on. And yet to many in the know, the results are still wanting. Students are still struggling while the educators themselves are juggling numerous responsibilities and trying their best to keep up to date. Now, Robert Kowalski throws his hat into the discourse and draws from his multi-disciplinary expertise to offer his fresh perspective in “ Paradox in the Contrivance of Human Development.”

Paradox is true as Kowalski’s considerable experience and know-how led him to behold the true enormity of the education reform conundrum and the various contradictions blocking real change. As he puts it, his educator peers are focused on their own activities whereas the outcome of the actual educating is left dependent on how well the learners perform. Due to being overloaded on both their ends, the educator and the learner are disconnected — the gulf between them has never been wider. And none of the reformists are engaging with this dilemma, so this fundamental flaw continues to this day.

Kowalski draws from fields as diverse as central banking, child protection, small-medium enterprises, neuro-linguistic programming, and so on, and leverages the input of professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds in the education and development fields. With this holistic approach, he zeroes in on what could be called a unified theory of human development. Whether it's the academia or UN aid programs, international conglomerates or social welfare activities, even convict rehabilitation, teaching people and helping them grow operates on fundamental principles. The educators are themselves learning in the process of teaching.

At its core, "Paradox in the Contrivance of Human Development" outlines the contradictory elements facing educators and learners in a wide variety of contexts. It untangles these conflicting aspects piece by piece. It then offers solutions in synthesizing them, or at least managing them smartly, so that human development can be better actualized — rather than bungled.

As Kowalski himself elaborates: "I begin by exploring development to ensure that my readers will be able to recognize the boundaries and overlaps with their own contexts. I then explore the nature of paradox, from a philosophical perspective, to establish the dimensions of the field that I wish to elaborate. After that I turn to specific manifestations of paradox in the management and development contexts with sorties into anthropology, sociology, sustainability, and , economics, culminating in deliberation of the phenomena known as Double-binds. The entire piece is completed by a consideration of Action Research and Higher Education in the development context, and draws out a brief set of recommendations."

Reviews and What Readers Say

“ I recommend this book to all who seek a thorough analysis of attempts to benefit the less advantaged peoples of this planet through so-called 'development' projects. Robert Kowalski explains well the many paradoxes in development efforts that promise economic growth, increased material well-being and something elusive called 'sustainability'. His book can be appreciated at various levels: as a well-argued and copiously referenced scholarly work and source of reference; as a course of instruction on the complexities and pitfalls of development efforts; and as a wake-up call for doing better while there is still time. He explains well why so many development efforts fail or have perverse results. For example, vested interests set the agendas, short-term benefits are targeted with insufficient attention to longer-term consequences, and one-dimensional 'technofixes' are promoted without real human engagement to gain appreciation of what the intended beneficiaries value most in life. On a broader front, the global financial system promotes indebtedness and can be complicit in increasing inequality. As Kowalski shows, with many cogent examples, the result is a worsening mess that demands attention. His take home messages for a better future in development efforts emphasize the following: good governance, real human engagement, inspirational leadership, learning, and above all ETHICS. These messages should be trumpeted around the globe - in homes, schools, community organizations and government. This book provides a wealth of material for supporting and participating in this essential process."

Roger Pullin, Amazon Client, Verified Purchase

“ This is a well argued and wide ranging exploration of the theory and practice of social and human development particularly in relation to its paradoxical nature. Bob Kowalski has provided an account which challenges the big bucks mind set, on the one hand, and the exigencies of humanitarian assistance on the other. He draws upon the ideas and observations of an eclectic assembly of other authors to augment his arguments on the many themes that he examines and throughout provides a rich collage of quotations to illuminate the text.Supplemented and illustrated by appropriate figures, graphs, and tables this is a book to make you think, and to challenge some of the misapprehensions entertained by professionals and scholars on this emotive issue.Bob has done a brilliant job by unraveling paradoxes of human development! I am certain educated people--students, teachers, and professionals--will find this book stimulating and helpful.”

―Brij, Amazon Client, Verified Purchase

"To read the book was like having a conversation with the author, but I missed the breaks to talk about football and to enjoy a nice, strong coffee. I really enjoyed reading the book and just felt that in some points his punches have been pulled. It seems the author has held back some of his more challenging views or selected softer words to express his ideas. Definitely this book captures his experience in the field and is a very direct support to those working in development, change and empowerment." ―Marcel Botelho

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Bob is a naturalist, researcher, teacher, and NLP practitioner, who was educated at Imperial College, Oxford (St. Peter’s College), SGGW and the Open University. He has spent 25 years contributing to international development, focusing on change management and institutional strengthening.

He has worked in Africa, Asia, South America, and countries in economic transition: Poland, Czech Republic, former Soviet Union (including Central Asia), Bulgaria, Romania and the states of former Yugoslavia.

For many years he taught at the Centre for International Development and Training at the University of Wolverhampton, and as a visiting lecturer at the University of Life Sciences in Warsaw.

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