Wholly Living: A new perspective on international development

The Christian vision of human flourishing does not simply call for a political response.
Rather, it insists that without personal moral responsibility, an active culture of
voluntarism, personal financial generosity, community participation, the responsible use
of natural resources, productive and responsible business ethics, and a serious, thoughtful
engagement with political processes, no purely political response stands any chance of
success. Generosity is therefore an integrated part of wholly living since generosity is one of the qualities of the image of God.

This is the conclusion of a year-long research project into what constitutes human flourishing, conducted by Theos, CAFOD and Tearfund. The report, Wholly Living aims to bring the inadequacy of traditional indices of development from the intellectual margins to the heart of public debate, in order that its practical implications for UK policy may be considered. While policy, both domestic and international, cannot make people more productive, creative or relational, its strategic implementation removes obstacles and facilitates a shift in attitude. While the theory of human flourishing outlined draws on a Christian understanding of humanity, the resulting recommendations are accessible and of relevance to all those who are concerned about our growth-oriented society.

In developing countries, poverty, disease and starvation are a reality for millions. In the developed West, social problems abound. Neither of these contexts represents human fulfilment. Why is it that an existence conducive to human flourishing eludes so many people? Wholly Living attributes both material and relational poverty to the prevailing understanding that economic growth is the sole indicator of progress. The report advocates a holistic approach that recognises that a society is more than its economy. The emphasis on personal gain as the ultimate priority has led to a devaluation of relationships, and our image of ourselves as disconnected individuals severely impedes our ability to live well.