Transcultural Development

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2020


In practice, development too often neglects the perspective of the impoverished when attempting to ameliorate negative socioeconomic conditions that persist. Entrepreneurs, and in particular social entrepreneurs, often attempt to solve social issues through a triple-bottom line approach but in many cases focus on the problem without greater consideration to the cultural context of their intervention. We introduce a new term, transcultural development, to advocate for the inclusion and preservation of cultural norms and rights of receiving cultures in the face of globalization, particularly when conducting projects that attempt to alleviate poverty. Presented is an applied ethnographic study conducted by two faculty members and seven undergraduate students consulting for a non-governmental organization (NGO) social enterprise over a ten-day short-term study abroad trip. The NGO and student group aimed to assist impoverished Guatemalans inhabiting the southwestern coastal plain to develop a new export crop, the pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan). Gender norms and rights proved a focal point in demonstrating the importance of conducting social impact assessments regularly to mitigate entrenched or biased views. The transcultural development approach may optimally incorporate an applied anthropological lens to the social aspects of social entrepreneurship.