The Role of Personal Identity in Human Development

  • Ilaria Schnyder von WartenseeEmail author
  • Elizabeth Hlabse
  • Gabriella Berloffa
  • Giuseppe Folloni
Original Article


Contributing to the capability and human development literature, this article suggests that personal identity—defined as a person’s recognition of her value—is the crucial element for local actors’ agency. We report the results of a qualitative study in Kampala, Uganda, which examines the experience of a grassroots development organisation in promoting health and wellbeing among vulnerable people. Findings show that personal identity has served to catalyse local actors’ agency, becoming the basis for a constructive and lasting transformation of the study group’s socioeconomic circumstances. In light of these findings, we discuss the potential for the experience to be translated across other development contexts.


Agency Capability approach Human development Personal identity Uganda 


En contribuant à la réflexion sur les capacités et le développement humains, cet article suggère comment l’identité personnelle – pouvant être définie comme la reconnaissance par une personne de sa propre valeur – est l’élément crucial dans l’action des acteurs locaux. Nous présentons les résultats d’une recherche qualitative, réalisée à Kampala (Ouganda), qui examine l’expérience d’une organisation locale d’aide au développement, active dans la promotion de la santé et du bien-être de personnes vulnérables. Les résultats montrent que l’identité personnelle a servi de catalyseur à la capacité des acteurs locaux, devenant la base d’une transformation constructive et durable de la situation socio-économique du groupe étudié. Au vu de ces résultats, nous discutons de la possibilité de transposer l’expérience dans d’autres contextes de développement.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the constructive feedback of Ted Beatty, Simona Beretta, Paolo Carozza, Séverine Deneulin, Robert Dowd, Georges Enderle, and Clemens Sedmak, and thank Rose Busingye and the MPI and LGHS communities for permission to conduct this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kellogg Institute for International StudiesUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Department of Economics and ManagementUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly

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