Development means growth, progress or positive change. It can refer to human and economic development, but it also describes a process of social change.
The term development is often used to describe the progression of an idea or product, like a new drug, software or building. It can also refer to a stage of growth, such as a child reaching adolescence. Likewise, news stories are often described as having been “developed.” In a more general sense, it can mean the process of improving something, including the addition of physical, economic and environmental components.
A key aspect of development is sustainability. The United Nations defines sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. The concept is complex and entails relationships between three primary interrelated areas: social, economic, and environmental.
The concept of development has been influenced by many theories and philosophies. Some, such as Erikson’s theory of human development, consider that people pass through well-defined stages: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Other theories, such as those of the Right Livelihood Award winner Manfred Max Neef, consider that human needs are limited but universal. He suggests that poverty is a result of not being able to satisfy one of those needs, and that the ways in which we satisfy those needs can vary.
A common assumption is that the development of humans has a natural trajectory, similar to the evolution of animals or plants. This assumption is often linked to a belief that human beings are born with fixed characteristics, but there are many arguments against it, including the possibility that children who are raised in different families have very different personalities.