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Doors reflect shared ideas and diverse experience. This an apt analogy for thinking about international development, and one conclusion from our book, International Development: Ideas, Experience, and Prospects.

Shelter is one of humanity’s oldest design challenges. Everyone wants to stay dry, be comfortable, and stay safe at night. Doors represent a common architectural solution, a means of getting inside and keeping the elements out. Around the world doors share these underlying ideas. Similarly, the past fifty years of international development witnessed a shared (if evolving) set of ideas about outcomes, of what development was meant to achieve.

Looking back, ideas and experience co-evolved over the past fifty years. Moving forward, theory and practice is increasingly open to the diversity of ongoing experience across the developing world and its people.

Yet doors also reflect the diversity of human experience and local context. Doors are shaped in part by local climate and building materials, as well as the constraints of cost and technology. Yet their appearance also embodies the culture, history, symbols, status, and tastes of the people who build and use each door. There are doors of different shapes, sizes, materials, colours, and decoration. Within international development there is an increasing acceptance that people in different places find diverse means of achieving similar outcomes.

Doors and development vary within limits, whether design and decoration, but they must all fulfill their intended purpose. There is no one-size-fits-all: successful approaches are replicated if they fit with the local context and real-life experience. Each society crafts its own responses to the problems it faces, whether controlling inflation, ensuring quality education, or financing health care.

For the next two years, Development Ideas is a new space for thinkers and practitioners to learn, share and debate about international development.

Finally, doors also represent a means of entering a new space. Looking back, ideas and experience co-evolved over the past fifty years. Moving forward, theory and practice is increasingly open to the diversity of ongoing experience across the developing world and its people.

For the next two years, Development Ideas is a new space for thinkers and practitioners to learn, share and debate about international development. Join us to understand how these shared ideas and diverse experiences might shape the next fifty years. Talk to us on Twitter. Participate in our next online #DevtIDEAS Debate. Or let us know if you want to contribute an article to our Discussion blog.

And please share your ideas with me in the comments section below.

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