Robert Chambers (development scholar)

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Robert Chambers
Chambers in 2015
Born Robert John Haylock Chambers
(1932-05-01) 1 May 1932 (age 84)
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Manchester (PhD 1967)
Occupation Development practitioner, academic
Website OpenDocs IDS

Robert John Haylock Chambers (born 1 May 1932) is a British academic and development practitioner. In 2013 he became an honorary fellow of the International Institute of Social Studies.[1]


Since the 1980s, Chambers has been one of the leading advocates for putting the poor, destitute and marginalised at the centre of the processes of development policy. In particular he argues they should be taken into account when the development problem is identified, policy formulated and projects implemented. He popularised within development circles such phrases as "putting the last first" and stressed the now generally accepted need for development professionals to be critically self-aware. The widespread acceptance of a "participatory" approach is in part due to his work.[2] This includes participatory rural appraisal.

Robert Chambers and G. R. Conway provided the first elaborated definition of the concept of sustainable livelihoods which reads:

a livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims and access) and activities required for a means of living: a livelihood is sustainable which can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation; and which contributes net benefits to their livelihoods at the local and global levels and in the short and long term

— Chambers and Conway 1991, 6[3][4][5]

Key works[edit]


  • Mukherjee Amitava, (2004) Participatory Rural Appraisal Methods and Applications in Rural Planning : (Essays in Honour of Robert Chambers), Concept, Second Revised Edition, ISBN 81-8069-105-5

Other sources[edit]

  • Chambers, Robert (2005) Critical Reflections of a Development Nomad, Chapter 4 in Kothari, Uma (Editor) A Radical History of Development Studies: Individuals, Institutions and Ideologies, Zed Books.
  • A complete bibliography spanning four decades of research on participatory development. The archive includes full text access to over 70 per cent of these publications.The Robert Chambers Archive

See also[edit]


External links[edit]