Who will guard the guardians? Amartya Sen’s contribution to development evaluation

An Action Learning process integrated with Sen’s Capability Approach can support development agencies to formulate interventions that enhance freedom. The authors show that putting this approach into practice has important implications for the manner in which ‘development’ is undertaken as an ideological project. It may help to examine and challenge those who hold power in development—the guardians. This finding is the result of an emergent Action Learning process that was initiated by applying Sen’s principles to focus-group interviews with women who care for people affected by HIV and AIDS. One of the findings of these focus groups was that the participants valued the process because it opened a space for them to influence the work of the implementing NGO. Essentially, they could hold the implementing agency to account. Reflection on this outcome by the agency led to important shifts in processes that are more supportive of freedom.