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A participatory treasure trove

Written by Mariah Cannon, Robert Chambers and Alice Webb

Here at the Institute of Development Studies, on the second floor of the Octagon, is a hidden treasure trove: the Participation Resource Centre (PRC). Full of useful resources on participatory methods and the theory of power and participation, for many years, it was funded, open to the public and photocopies of materials were posted across the globe to interested parties on request. This legacy is still evidenced by the envelopes and photocopies stacked in the PRC ready to find their way to new and curious hands.

Over the years, as funding dwindled, requests for materials lapsed, and online availability of resources improved, we entered a period of uncertainty about the PRC’s future. Since Robert Chambers decided to reduce his involvement in work at IDS just before the pandemic, he has also been clearing out his office at home, and as his colleagues and friends, many of us have been ferrying in new boxes of literary gold (often handsomely compensated with tea, cake and excellent conversation from Robert and his wife, Jenny), putting it in the PRC until we knew what to do with it.

New Bulletin and podcast on 50 years of learning with Robert Chambers

Robert Chambers is one of the most influential and prolific scholars to write about participation, poverty, and knowledge in development studies. His writing and thinking have revolutionised the discipline, inspiring both participatory processes and more inclusive practice. His work continues to inspire and provoke debate and discussion among development practitioners, activists, and academics from around the world. Here we present an Archive Collection of the IDS Bulletin in a celebration of Robert’s contribution to the journal over the last five decades.

Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation for Learning training

IDS is running a five-day training course in monitoring and evaluation systems supporting participatory and adaptive practice, from 22 May 2023 until 26 May 2023, in Majorca, Spain.

This in-person training course builds on the deep historical experience with participatory approaches and methods that IDS has pioneered and shares new frontier methods for quality implementation of participatory processes at scale (with large numbers of people and across broader geographical space) to support learning focused and complexity-aware M&E systems.

Practitioners with deep experiences of methods in a range of contexts will share case studies from their own work to illustrate the qualities of particular methods. You will then explore how the methods can be applied in your own organisation or project and will work individually and in peer-support groups to develop your own participatory M&E design. 

The learning process is designed to enable you to learn from your peers as well as the facilitators through interactive sessions and we take time to have fun and get to know each other throughout the week.

Participatory Action Research training

IDS is running a five-day training course in using participatory action research to improve development practice, from 12 June 2023 until 16 June 2023.

Interest in participatory action research has surged recently in the international development sector, as it challenges the power dynamic inherent in traditional research approaches. This is why it is key that professionals and practitioners in the sector adopt the latest thinking and address any skills gap within their organisations.

The course, convened by Jo Howard and Danny Burns, is interactive, inclusive, participatory and applied. Prior to the course, you’ll be asked to think of a critical question that you are dealing with in your work, or relating to your organisation’s practice. Over the week you will explore this question and, with the support of the facilitators, identify a participatory action research process appropriate for addressing your question, and learn how to develop and manage this process, and reflect on the ethical challenges.

An animation on children's participation: Children can do a lot

For the last couple of years, the Rejuvenate project has been hosting conversations for practitioners and researchers to reflect on child and youth rights and participation, alongside building a living archive of related projects and resources.

The idea

Throughout this work, the project have been suggesting that we need to transform the way we work with children and young people.

In their working paper, the team propose a shift from UNCRC principles of ‘protection, provision, participation’ to ‘space, support, system change’.

This shift could mobilise us to truly understand and support children’s agency, and move us away from adult-led, top-down agendas.

Participatory video: 'Seeing conflict' in Kenya

Across sub-Saharan Africa, investors are committing unprecedented funds to develop oil, geothermal, hydropower, titanium, iron-ore, agricultural, carbon and other natural resources in the rural margins. Many projects are located in remote rural regions with histories of tension and conflict. While national governments welcome the potential of these investments to generate economic growth and create a more dynamic entrepreneurial environment, the benefits of these trends for local populations, particularly in terms of livelihoods, benefits sharing and governance, are often uncertain.

In fact, large-scale resource development at the margins can intensify long-standing struggles around public authority, community autonomy and environmental justice in these places, in some cases resulting in new and emerging tensions, protests, disputes, and inter and intra-community violence.

Gender equality, nutrition & WaSH in pastoralist communities

This blog was written by Christine Fostvedt-Mills, Line Richter and Jocelyn Kelln and originally appeared on the Sanitation Learning Hub website. 

In 1985, the global community convened in Nairobi to review and examine the achievements of the UN Decade of Women. Agreeing that the goals of the first World Conference on Women had not been met, participants collectively recognized that all issues are women’s issues, leading some to dub the conference the “birth of global feminism.” In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) included promoting gender equality and improving maternal health among the 8 goals and then, in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) amplified the issue of gender inequality, declaring goal #5 to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

Apply now: Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation for Learning

Develop your skills to more effectively design and improve monitoring and evaluation systems supporting participatory and adaptive practice at an in-person training course at the Institute of Development Studies in September 2022.

Increasingly, development organisations are using complexity-aware, learning-based approaches to design and drive their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems. This enables practitioners to better understand how change actually happens and how impact is achieved in real time in complex social change contexts. There is also growing awareness of the need for downward accountability and supporting greater feedback from those engaging in interventions to those designing and funding them.