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About COMPAS / history


The COMPAS network was founded in 1995 by NGOs and universities from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Based on years of experience with participatory development approaches, these organisations were convinced that a more culture-sensitive approach towards development was needed if the well-being of the people concerned is to be improved successfully. They called their approach endogenous development. Key to the approach is that all cultural aspects (including the spiritual) are taken on board, and not only those that are understood and valued by the development worker.

1995 - 1997
During the pilot-phase of the COMPAS programme, network organisations documented farmers' worldviews and indigenous concepts related to natural resource management. The new network focused on building pockets of interest among NGOs on worldviews and indigenous knowledge. In 1996 the first exchange workshop was organised resulting among others in the video 'COMPAS: crops, culture and cosmovision'.

1998 - 2002
In the following five years, COMPAS initiated and supported local development initiatives that enhance indigenous knowledge and bio-cultural diversity. Traditional leaders became actively involved in planning community-based development activities. More detailed field studies on how indigenous knowledge and worldviews are functioning in real-life situations were conducted resulting in the publications Food for Thought (1999) and Ancient Roots, New Shoots (2003).

2003 - 2006
The COMPAS programme focused on developing and testing endogenous development methodologies in close cooperation with communities, NGOs and universities. Furthermore a university network was established to strengthen the scientific basis of endogenous development. Several publications were produced, such as the COMPAS series of Worldviews and sciences (six volumes, 2007) and Learning Endogenous Development (2007). This phase of the programme was concluded with an international conference on endogenous development and bio-cultural diversity in Geneva.

2007 - 2010
January 2007 the COMPAS programme was granted a new four year contract with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The main objectives during the current phase are to systematically test and improve methodologies for endogenous development; to mainstream the endogenous development approach into policies and development programmes; to enhance the capacity of NGOs in endogenous development; to initiate and support local initiatives that enhance bio-cultural diversity; and to support the international platform for information exchange on culture, worldviews and development.