Social Development Sector

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Social Development Sector

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Functions related to the social development sector were consolidated in a single department in January 1997, with the formation of the Social Development Department (SDV, alternatively referred to as the Social Development Network) within the Vice Presidency for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (ESSD). However, activities related to the sector were initiated in the early 1970s with the report circulated by the Vice President of Bank Operations, Warren Baum, entitled A Report with Recommendation on the Use of Anthropology in Project Operations in the World Bank Group. This report concluded that there was a need to increase anthropological and sociological input into Bank projects; part of its recommendations included the hiring of eleven anthropologists and sociologists who were to be placed in strategic operational departments. As per its recommendations, social scientists were recruited and placed in various sectoral, regional, and country offices. For example, Michael Cernea, the Bank's first sociologist, was hired by the Rural Development Department in 1974 and Gloria Davis, the Bank's first anthropologist, became a member of the Indonesia Transmigration and Land Settlement Program in 1978. The objective of the Bank's earliest social scientists was to work towards the improvement of development project effectiveness through focus on the promotion and development of tools for social analysis and participation, and the creation of a Bank-wide and external network of colleagues.

In the early 1980s, policies related to resettlement, indigenous people, women, and institutions (specifically related to farmer production systems) were developed and implemented by the Bank. Significantly, in 1984, the Bank adopted an operational manual statement (OMS 2.20) that included a section on Sociological Aspects of Project Appraisal. During this time, the social scientists employed by the Bank along with other Bank staff interested in social concerns were linked informally through the Bank Sociological Group, headed by Michael Cernea.

Developing and maintaining relationships with external non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became a Bank-wide imperative in the early 1980s. These activities would come to be associated with the social development network and would eventually be placed in the SDV in 1997. An initial NGO-World Bank Committee was formed within the International Relations Department (IRD) of the Office of the Vice President, External Relations (VPE) in 1983. The function would be moved regularly over the subsequent decade and a half. The function was moved into: the Strategic Planning Department as a new unit in 1987 (SPRIE); the External Relations Department, again, in 1990 (EXTIE); the Operations Policy Department (OPR) in 1993, briefly as the International Economic Relations Division (OPRIE) and then into OPR's Policy Group (OPRPG); and finally the SDV's Non-Governmental Organization Division (SDVNG) in 1997.

In 1987, the Environment Department (ENV) was created within the Vice Presidency, Sector Policy and Research (PRE). Four Regional environment divisions (REDs) were also established to serve as technical departments that would oversee the implementation of environment measures included in Bank-supported projects. While the newly formed Department initially consisted of environment staff, it and the REDs eventually came to have social expertise, as well.

This development was ultimately articulated in the Environment Department's organizational structure when, in 1993, a division for Social Policy and Resettlement (ENVSP) was created with an anthropologist, Gloria Davis, as division chief. The division dealt with resettlement, social dimensions of natural resource management, social assessment, and an emerging social policy agenda. The division was also involved in project appraisal/review and creating reports and policy.

A significant development in the articulation of the Bank's social development function was the 1994 publication of Social Assessment-Incorporating Participation and Social Analysis into the Bank's Operational Work by the ENVSP (WBG Archives folder number 1454283, Social Development Fonds). The paper brought together social analysis and participatory processes under a single approach and defined the objectives of social assessment as reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development by:


  • identifying key stakeholders and establishing an appropriate framework for their participation in project selection, design and implementation;


  • ensuring that project objectives and incentives for change are acceptable to the range of people intended to benefit, and that gender and other social differences are reflected in project design;


  • assessing the social impact of investment projects, and determining how adverse impacts can be overcome or at least substantially mitigated; and


  • evaluating the capacity to enable participation, permit service delivery and carry out mitigation measures, and recommending measures to strengthen capacity.

The Bank and, specifically, the ENVSP, published numerous papers, guides, and books throughout the 1990s that helped define the emerging social development sector, provide guidance for Bank lending and operations departments, and influence future policy. In 1997, Social Development and Results on the Ground: Task Group Report:http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/1997/05/3217454/social-development-results-ground-task-group-report was published as the final document of the Task Group to advise on Social Development. The document provided definitions, took stock of the Bank's accomplishments related to social analysis and social development, and charted a course for moving forward. The Task Group also provided a number of recommendations related to the broader use of participation and social analysis.

In January of 1997, the Social Development network (SDV) was formed. This took place at the same time as a Bank-wide reorganization of the thematic Vice Presidencies. To facilitate sharing of expertise and knowledge, the Bank established networks that linked Bank-wide communities of staff working in the same field across organizational boundaries and with external partners. The networks formed a virtual overlay on the existing Bank organization, and were intended to link staff working in the same sectors throughout the Bank, whether the staff was located in the Regions, in the Central Vice-Presidencies' Sector Departments, or other Vice-Presidencies. Four networks were formed as part of the restructuring: the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network (ESSD); the Finance, Private Sector Development, and Infrastructure Network (FPD); the Human Development Network (HDN); and the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PRM). THE SDV was placed in the ESSD.

Gloria Davis was named the first director of the SDV. In addition to the creation of the Department, social development units were established in the Regions and a Board of Regional representatives was created. The newly formed Social Development Board set as its main objectives:


  • establishing the infrastructure through which the network would function;


  • integrating and mainstreaming social analysis, participation and gender considerations into lending operations by developing and disseminating procedures for social assessment;


  • identifying and addressing key social issues in countries and regions;


  • aligning work on social development within the merging business activities of the Bank - especially poverty reduction and private sector development;


  • improving research, capacity building and partnerships; and


  • delivering several other products and programs identified by the Executive Directors and senior management as having high priority for the Bank: for example, developing a strategy to guide Bank-NGO relations, strengthening the Bank's capacity to deal with post-conflict reconstruction, and supporting a new cultural heritage initiative.

The Department had no operational portfolio.

On January 1, 2007, the Social Development Department was moved to the Sustainable Development Network (SDN). The SDN officially came into existence on July 1, 2006, and was operationally functional as of January 1, 2007. It was formed through the integration of ESSD and Infrastructure (INF). Along with the Social Development Department, SDN includes the following units or departments: Agricultural and Rural Development Department (ARD); Concessional and Sub-National Finance (CSF); Finance, Economics and Urban Development (FEU); Sustainable Energy (SEG); Environment Department (ENV); and Transport, Water, and Information and Communication Technologies (TWI).

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