This article looks at the adaptation and adoption of participatory methodologies in the north. The article draws from insights the emerged at an event in April 2004, that brought together practitioners to reflect on the development of participatory processes in the UK. The article begins by looking at the context and history of participatory approaches in the North, particularly linked with unions, poverty and women's rights. The article then looks at recent practices in Participatory Appraisal (PA), commonly used in community health work, patient user groups, regeneration, youth and environmental work, and the question of empowerment within this approach. The key issues emerging include how to ensure a focus on attitudes as well as skills in training; how to help decision makers, managers and practitioners understand PA and why it is being done; how to ensure that PA is carried out within an ethical framework; how to make the processes more inclusive; how to address power within the approach; which approach to use; and finally how to create new spaces for participation. In conclusion, the authors suggest that it is essential that all those involved in participation need to push for the right conditions and build on their community-level experiences in order for positive to change to happen. And that this in turn must be linked with critical reflection and dialogue with decision-makers. Key issues to be addressed include transformational learning, connecting civil society with decision makers, developing a rights-based agenda, amplifying the most marginal voices, working in an ethical way and exploring dimensions of empowerment within participatory work.
International Institute for Environment and Development