Paradigms, poverty and adaptive pluralism

Chambers, R.
Publication year: 
In earlier analysis, two paradigms were identified in development professionalism, thinking and practice: one, often dominant, associated with things; and one, often subordinate, associated with people. Current development thinking and practice have diverged into two clusters, with procedures associated with the paradigm of things imposed by powerful actors and organisations in tension and contradiction with participatory methodologies (PMs) associated with the paradigm of people. A binocular vision sees both. This sets out to see further, and whether participatory methodologies (PMs) can bridge these binaries with both – and complementarities and win-wins. In recent years, PMs have proliferated. Contributing factors have been the way methods have multiplied, their versatility, adaptability and combinability, the explosion of applications of Information and Communication Technologies and Web 2.0, and more speculatively an increase in the number of people working in a creative participatory way. PMs that combine methods have proved increasingly versatile and adaptable to contexts and purposes. PMs are well suited to understanding and expressing the local, complex, diverse, dynamic, uncontrollable and unpredictable (lcdduu) realities experienced by many poor people. These contrast with the controlled conditions and universalities sought in much high status professionalism. Paradigmatically and practically, four domains have increasingly converged and cohere: PMs; poor people’s lcdduu realities; technology; and complexity. Paradigm can then be defined as a coherent and mutually supporting pattern of: concepts and ontological assumptions; values and principles; methods, procedures and processes; roles and behaviours; relationships; and mindsets, orientations and predispositions. Empirically, a paradigm of adaptive and participatory pluralism can be inferred from experience and examples. This fits with the realities of poor people as adaptive agents and with PMs seen through lenses of technology and complexity. It contrasts with a paradigm of neo-Newtonian practice.


Source publication information
IDS working paper no. 344
57 p
Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RE, UK
Publisher reference: 
Institute of Development Studies