Actor-Orientation A: The Individual Level

Authors: K. Holdener, U. Wiesmann, K. Herweg

How do individuals act? Click on the movie and the animation in the right-hand column:

  1. This lesson is concerned with a regional and actor-oriented perspective on development and development dynamics.
  2. We are interested in the individual unit and his/her particular actions to securing his/her livelihood.
  3. The actions and strategies of action of individual actors are put in the context of underlying theories.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, you shall be able to:

  • Identify the reasons for the regional, actor-oriented approach to development dynamics that is put forward in the example from sub-Saharan Africa ("The development crisis");
  • Evaluate the importance of theories as the foundation and background for livelihood approaches (ontology, underlying theories);
  • Describe a theory of action for actors at the individual level and estimate how it might contribute to a deeper understanding of the actions of specific actors (network of meaning, actions);
  • Apply the components of the theory of action (as outlined) to a concrete situation (exercises);
  • List the most important features of the example of peasants in rural Kenya;
  • Define the focal actors', i.e. peasant farmers', rationale of action;
  • Describe the dimensions within the framework used to interpret the meaning of action that apply to the actors we are focussing on;
  • Interpret the actors' real-life attempts to secure their livelihoods by defining the meaning of their actions and strategies by using the meta-theory.


In order to fulfil the learning objectives of this lesson, you will have to:

  • Work on the meta-theoretical background texts (in the form of PDF files in the media column). They give a general outline and compulsory background information, and illustrate the core information presented in this column.
  • Perform a self-assessment by doing a drag-and-drop match of specific terms in an example text. The example will help the user to grasp the meta-theory better by relating it to a "real-life situation".
  • Read passages from a text by (Wiesmann 1998), which explain the theoretical foundations of the model in detail;
  • Link the meta-theoretical basis of our livelihood approach with the real-life situations presented by interpreting a film sequence.

Working through this lesson you will come across the following activities, tests and downloads:




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