The poor, according to Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach, consist of individuals who are deprived of basic freedoms such as education, political power, and other capabilities that allow individuals to achieve full lives that they have reason to value. This approach broadens the definition of poverty beyond traditional terms of financial power to recognize a multitude of “unfreedoms” which hinder upward movement in society. Historically, marginalized individuals most affected by policy changes are often ignored in the decision-making process in the development arena. This creates dire consequences: from lack of acceptance and implementation of new initiatives at the grassroots level to the inability of locals to adapt and scale programs according to their own community’s specific needs.
In order to ensure that past historic injustices are not repeated and to promote the human dignity of all individuals, it is necessary to engage with empathy and to view research, problems, and policies from the perspective of those most affected by development challenges. By providing a preferential option for the poor, or acting in solidarity with marginalized individuals, the feasibility and acceptance of potential solutions on the ground can be improved. This approach transforms the language of development from “donor” and “recipient” into a partnership where all parties contribute and benefit. This theme seeks to highlight the need for such partnerships by engaging empathetically with all stakeholders during the process of human development.