This study looks critically at the varying concepts and practices of participatory development (PD) and asks how to practically strengthen the concept and practice of it for more effective programming with the poor. It first looks at the conceptual weaknesses of PD and suggests that ,fro participatory development to be a non-tyrannical paradigm , a rights based approach towards it, coupled with a series of practical mechanisms is required to strengthen it. It tests these theories against the programming of an international NGO, the HIV/AIDS Alliance. The research methodology included literature review, interviews with key informants from the Participation group at IDS (Institute of Development Science, UK) and SWOC (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and constraints) analysis. The study report gives an introduction to the study and goes on to analyse the assessment of the concept of participatory development; conceptual assumptions; linking participation as a goal and a right, with better practice; strengthening the concept and practice of participation at the HIV/AIDS Alliance, on institutional personal and professional levels; and assessing the potential to strengthen the concept and practice of PD. It concludes that a rights based approach to participation is both possible and desirable, but that it will require considerable effort by all stakeholders to make it a reality.