Why do field workers use participatory approaches as they do? This paper uses a case study of fieldworkers' use of Participatory Rural Appraisal in ActionAid The Gambia to address the question. Original empirical material that focuses on fieldworkers' perceptions of the factors that influence them is examined through the conceptual framework of structuration theory. The dissertation argues that the practice of a participatory approach emerges from a complex process of negotiation where fieldworkers are subject to unique combinations of competing influences from the organisation they work for, the communities they work with and their own personal characteristics. It suggests that fieldworkers can actively pursue personal agendas and can also be involved in changing the structures that condition their actions. However the dissertation concludes that elements of the organisational structure can leave little room for fieldworkers to use their agency positively. Managers need to change this structure if the gap between the policy and practice of participatory approaches is to be reduced. A deeper understanding of fieldworker's use of participatory approaches will make it possible to establish what changes are required to improve the implementation and institutionalisation of these approaches.
Institute of Development Studies