Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) has a long history in development planning in less developed countries. In recent years, PLA approaches have also been promoted for participatory development planning in rural areas of industrialised countries with functioning democratic institutions. This paper draws on experiences of applying participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in a one-week planning workshop in M³hlen, Northern Germany and asks whether or nor PRA is an appropriate instrument for participatory community development in societies with functioning local democratic institutions. The authors conclude that PRA should be seen as a complementary instrument to the existing political and institutional arrangements. That while civil society actors can take over complementary responsibilities and initiatives, the local administrators and democratically elected bodies need to play a key role in order for PRA processes in community development to become successful in affluent societies.
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International Institute for Environment and Development