The ActionAid Participatory Methodologies Forum 2001, which was hosted by AA Bangladesh, attracted 44 participants from 20 countries. This was an unprecedented gathering of key people working at different levels in different vertical or horizontal functions across ActionAid. The forum was initially conceived as a space to share experiences around participatory methodologies, adapting them to the new strategic direction of ActionAid. However, it rapidly evolved into a space for the analysis of power relationships, with the recognition that all participatory methods, tools and techniques can easily become manipulative, extractive, distorted or impotent.
This meant looking inwards, at their own personal experiences of power and at power relationships within ActionAid, in order to identify contradictions and develop new “lenses”, sensitive to power, with which to see their work with partners, allies and crucially with the poor and the excluded.
This is not a traditional workshop report as it does not attempt to offer a simple sequential or chronological overview of proceedings. Rather it aims to present a synthesis of the key ideas and a flavour of the experience. Moreover, this report has been compiled by the core planning team and is very much the planning team’s collective interpretation of the Forum. They are hence respectful that each participant in the forum experienced the process differently and that no report can ever hope to capture such diversity.