How participatory is participation in social funds?: an analysis of three case studies from the Malawi social action fund, (MASAF)

The majority of the evaluations looking at community participation in social funds (SFs) have tended to generalise about the nature of community participation. As a result, there does not appear to be an adequate analysis of the participatory process itself to assess the depth and scope of community participation and whether such participation can generate the benefits associated with the new approach. This paper attempts to contribute to this existing knowledge gap by analysing the nature and type of community participation in three Social Fund projects from Mangochi district of southern Malawi. The paper examines the concept of and different levels of community participation (from passive participation to self-mobilisation), and community participation in social funds worldwide. Community participation in three case studies from the Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF) are analysed. The case studies included the Chilipa Community Day Secondary School, the Ngao School for orphans, and a construction of a road linking Mbaluku and Nalikolo under the MASAF Public Works Programme. The author examines community participation in practice of needs assessment and project selection, project planning, project implementation, monitoring and evaluation and maintenance. The concept of community participation in each of the three case studies is examined. It is concluded that the definition of community participation in the three MASAF projects was very narrow and limited, takin on a passive and indirect nature. Consequently, the projects are found to fail to generate the benefits that are attributed to community participation in development initiatives while at the same time failing to empower the local community to take charge of decisions that contribute to their well-being and social advancement.

22 p.