Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Teresa Healy



The mainstream school of thought and literature surrounding sustainable development contains numerous terms, assumptions, and perspectives which creates a myriad of meanings. As the academic literature attempts to understand this wide field of study, the perspectives have only grown instead of solidifying into a consensus. This paper first presents a literature review which explores current views and perspectives of how the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘development’ independent of each other are used and how, by combining these terms, create even more perspectives and concepts with sometimes conflicting meanings. This paper then discusses the difficulties of using the term sustainable development as a practitioner of sustainable development ‘in the field’ and proposes practitioners should have a meta-knowledge of the wide uses of the term(s) for the purpose of creating a locally contextual meaning of sustainable development through the use of local knowledge. The author uses an ethnomethodological approach to interview International Non-Governmental Organization’s host country national staff to create mean-making of the term, its use, and its impact within the country of Sierra Leone. The result of this meaning-making shows that while parts of the local perspective of sustainability connect to the current literature, their views are uniquely divergent in some aspects. The locally created view of sustainable development is uniquely different. This divergence should compel practitioners to not only have a thorough understanding of the various literature on Sustainable development, but also develop what I think of as ‘contextual empathy’ of the local perspectives and usage of the term Sustainable Development.


International and Intercultural Communication