Towards participatory practice: PRA and the participatory process

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PRA is set in the context of other participatory approaches to development, such as PAR. A table is used to present the varying ways of using "participation" showing to what extent local people are involved. This paper looks at PRA 'in terms of the potential it offers for colearning within a process oriented toward a goal of collective action'. Drawing on personal experiences, the process of using visualisations within PRA is analyzed in detail. Compared with conventional research methods such as interviewing, 'constructing a visual representation is in itself an analytic act'. The 'focus of activity shifts from the researcher to the representation' and the visualised product acts as a focus for discussions, a shared reference point. Difference can be explored by using visuals to extend focus group work, such as to discuss gender differences in separate groups of men and women. Visualisations can thus provide a way of discussing sensitive issues or points of conflict by moving the conversation to an object rather than to the individuals concerned. Drama, as a more dynamic visual form, offers creative potential to explore issues rather than the usual didactic theatre used in health education. PRA leads to a wider understanding of 'health' as being the result of issues such as inequality and poverty. Health workers can use the visual methods to 'bridge the gap between medical messages and local knowledge' and to change their role so they are learning from people's experiences.

Source publication information
Draft mimeo, edited by de Koning and M. Martin
Andrea Cornwall, Department of Anthropology, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H OXG, UK