Using Participatory Action Research Methodologies for Engaging and Researching with Religious Minorities in Contexts of Intersecting Inequalities
The CLTS Knowledge Hub, based at the Institute of Development Studies, convened a regional workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, 16-20 April 2018 with support from SNV Tanzania. The event brought together those engaged in rural WASH programming from eight countries across the region (Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) alongside experts working at regional and global levels. Over the course of five days participants shared experiences, innovations, challenges and learning, and mapped gaps in knowledge with the aim of improving capacity and future learning, and building consensus on the way forward. SNV Tanzania also facilitated a field visit to its Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (SSH4A) project areas in Babati and Karatu districts.
This learning brief presents the common challenges and barriers to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 that the workshop participants identified across the region. It summarises discussions held across the week, highlights promising practices and considers priority actions moving forward.
The brief is available to download in English (to the right) and also in French here.
Convening and Facilitating Rapid Action Learning Workshops for the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G)
These guidance notes intend to inform and support all who seek to sponsor, convene, facilitate and report on Rapid Action Learning (RAL) workshops anywhere in India and to contribute to the quality, sustainability and timely implementation of the national Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G) campaign (this translates to clean India mission).
They are primarily for districts convened at divisional level but can also be adapted for blocks at district level and drawn on for workshops at state and national levels. They draw on the approach, methods and lessons learnt so far through previous RAL workshops in India.
The CLTS Knowledge Hub, based at the Institute of Development Studies, WaterAid, WSSCC and UNICEF co-convened a regional workshop in Saly, Senegal, 25th-28th June 2018 with support from AGETIP. The event brought together those engaged in rural WASH programming from 14 countries across the region (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo) alongside experts working at regional and global levels. Over the course of four days participants shared latest experiences, innovations, challenges and research, mapped knowledge gaps and discussed ways forward with the aim of improving capacity and knowledge.
This learning brief presents the common challenges identified across the region, summarises some of the discussions held, highlights some promising practices and considers priority actions moving forward.
This blog originally appeared on the Institute of Development Studies website.
Do we really need debiasing, yet another word? Yes, unless anyone can improve on it, because we need a word to describe a rigorous discipline we development professionals need for grounded realism. This has been coming on me slowly. But now explorations and ‘aha!’ moments in India have accumulated and combined into an epiphany. For me, things will never be the same again. Let me explain.
The biases of rural development tourism
The biases of rural development tourism are old news. These are biases in brief rural visits from urban centres. They were a collective discovery and articulation at IDS in the early 1980s. They have now receded into the mists of history and been largely forgotten. Few in later generations of development professionals have heard of them. But with rapid change, they are now more relevant than ever.
The biases are spatial (main tarmac road, roadside, accessible from an urban centre…) , project (special villages and places where there are projects, good things to show, contacts…..), person (males, elite, adults, government and NGO staff….), seasonal (during the dry season, not the rains…), professional (questions and curiosity limited to specialised professional mindsets and interests) and diplomatic (being tactful, not inquiring about sensitive subjects) and (an addition since the 1980s) security (confined to places considered safe, and limited to those accessible in daylight….).
The biases interlock and reinforce each other to exclude those people who are most remote, powerless, vulnerable, poor, stigmatised, discriminated against – those whom the SDGs are not to leave behind. With the intensifying capital trap – being stuck in a capital city or urban centre by meetings, emails, visitors, demands for accountability, reporting, and the like – the biases combine now more wickedly than ever.
And there is a new distorting influence to add: competitive campaigns. This is high profile campaigns in which districts and organisations compete to achieve, and to be seen to have achieved, more than others. This last bias is striking with the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin in India, the impressively massive and hugely ambitious campaign driven by political commitment and priority which seeks to make rural India open defecation free by 2 October 2019.
Systemically, with almost every brief rural visit, there is a special reason for where the visitor is taken, who is met, what is said and what is shown. This is most brazen with atypical model communities such as the Millennium villages in African countries. It is also manifest in visits to successful projects, or where the Government or an NGO works or has contacts, somewhere easily accessible and so on. This leads to a scattered archipelago of islands of special cases and contacts that are seen, studied, quoted, and then quoted again and again back and forth by visitors, with the authority of their personal experience of rural, or for that matter urban, reality.
Visiting these islands is better than not visiting at all. But it results not in representative ground truth but in a take-off through repetition into sustainably biased myth. The expanses of sea between the scattered islands are overlooked, unvisited and unexplored, but are many times larger, and more typical, than the islands. Even those who demand representative rigour in statistics are themselves through such visits systemically vulnerable to grossly unrepresentative views of reality. And all this is accentuated when there are competitive target-driven campaigns.
How to offset bias
We need a systematic, timely and cost-effective approach offsetting the biases and for finding and exploring the seas between the islands. Here is what, again and again, I have found works astonishingly well, and far better than one might suppose.
- Ring fence a day. Take a day’s leave if necessary. Do not have any government or NGO person with you – just a driver, perhaps a colleague, and (in my case usually) an interpreter.
- Hire an unmarked vehicle.
- Drive out from your urban centre in any direction for 15-20km.
- Turn off left or right and drive for 5-10km.
- Turn left or right again and stop anywhere, perhaps a poor or typical village or other settlement.
- Wander around on foot, meet people, explain who you are and your interests, notice and ask about things, be friendly and interested, ask what people would like to show you, seek out those we might not meet – women, children disabled, low status, living on the fringes, key informants like teachers, local representatives, masons, health workers and so on.
- Tea shops can be brilliant. Go to a tea shop and chat. A male bias can be expected, but discussions can be immediately frank and revealing. You can carry out quick order-of-magnitude surveys based on people’s knowledge of different villages and other questions.
- Follow up on offers to show you things, or take you to see people or things.
- Go to several contrasting places during the day.
Discover the unexpected
Using this approach here is a tiny sample of what I have stumbled on in India. All happened to be in States or Districts that had been declared open defecation free (ODF). Except for one that was affluent and exceptional being on a main road, all were very far from ODF.
- A community of 40 Dalits in government-constructed housing with no toilets. In one was a pregnant woman with both legs paralysed who had to pull herself with her hands and crawl to a road and cross it to defecate. The only toilet in the whole community was just being completed, having been constructed by a woman entirely from her family resources.
- A mason who boasted that he had demolished over a hundred twin pit toilets (the cheaper and more sustainable type favoured by Government) and replaced them with more expensive and less sustainable septic tanks. This was good for his income but bad for the owners of the toilets.
- A village where a number of toilets each bore a painted statement that the government incentive money of Rs 12,000 had been spent on their construction. All were raised up because of seasonal flooding. They had walls but neither roof nor door nor pit! One was used for urination and stank.
- In a relatively affluent roadside village, beautifully decorated toilets. A mason said the absolute minimum for a toilet was Rs 80,000. A woman with no toilet said she could not afford this. She had to practise OD. The mason had never constructed a twin pit toilet which should cost less than the Government incentive of Rs 12,000. No way was a septic tank an option for the poor woman.
- A village with 175 households, 35 defunct toilets built by an earlier programme, and about 14 septic tanks entirely paid for and built by their owners. In this village it emerged from conversations with the village head, then with a group of men and then separately with a group of women, that they knew nothing or had barely heard about the SBM-G campaign, then near the end of its fourth year. No one had ever come to the village to tell them about the campaign. They had never heard of twin-pit toilets.
The point of these is not to denigrate the programme but to illustrate how the vast sea can differ from the scattered archipelago normally visited.
A challenge to all development professionals
So let me invite all, yes all, development professionals who see this to look in the mirror and be wary of visits which systemically reinforce misperceptions and generate and sustain myths. Ring fence days for you to ground truth through de-biasing. It is fulfilling, informative, fascinating and fun, to explore, to meet people casually, to wander, observe, ask, listen and gain new insights. Every single de-biasing visit I have done has made me wonder – will it happen again? Will I learn anything new this time? Will there be aha moments? Or will this be a wasted day? And every time, every single time, I have been startled and provoked by unexpected revelations. This has always happened. The insights have been intense and memorable, and the implications for policy, practice and research significant. The use of time has been extraordinarily cost-effective.
So let me challenge all fellow professionals who are engaged with rural or urban development – in government organisations, NGOs, training and research institutes, academics, the media, and funding agencies – all who have the scope to do so – to de-bias. Let me challenge all who can to encourage or require others in their organisations to do likewise. Escape the cognitive trap and help your colleagues to escape theirs. Be a devil. Straight away ring-fence a de-biasing day for yourself. Be systematically rigorous. De-bias, enjoy and tell others what you did and what you learnt.
Inspired to take up the challenge? For a useful reminder, download and print A systematic approach to debiasing, instructions from Robert Chambers
Navigating the Pathways from Exclusion to Accountability: From Understanding Intersecting Inequalities to Building Accountable Relationships
Inclusion of the most marginalised people through addressing discriminatory dynamics is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This research report considers how the intersection of spatial, economic and identity-based factors drive poverty and marginalisation.
It provides insights into how participatory processes with people living in these intersections can contribute to developing accountable relationships between the most excluded groups and duty-bearers. It is based on data, analysis and reflections gathered through collaborative and participatory research in Egypt, Ghana, India, South Africa and Uganda, conducted with Participate partner organisations the Centre for Development Services, Radio Ada, Praxis, Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation and Soroti Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
In these five settings, partner organisations or ‘translocutors’ have developed participatory action research processes to facilitate exchange between citizens and a range of duty-bearers. They have attempted to open pathways to accountability, through iterative stages of building confidence within the group, deepening contextual understanding, promoting dialogue between citizens and duty-bearers, and developing working alliances between groups and agencies. This report discusses these experiences, and draws out learning and recommendations on how to build inclusive and accountable relationships with marginalised groups through progressive engagement among stakeholders in different spaces and levels of the ‘accountability ecosystem’.
Translating Complex Realities Through Technologies: lessons about participatory accountability from South Africa
Accountability is a complex issue in South Africa. The country has high levels of inequality, and marginalised groups – as in many countries – struggle to make themselves heard by those in power. Yet the issue is further complicated by an interacting set of factors, including the legacy of apartheid, gender and religious issues, and the lack of access to those in power.
Through a six-year research project, the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation (SLF) used a range of technology-enabled participatory processes to unpack this lack of government accountability. This report focuses on four case studies, which examined the lived realities of marginalised groups and the activists that campaign on their behalf: activists against gender-based violence and for community safety; community care workers and health committee members working for public health; informal traders and the informal economy; and traditional medicine, Rastafarian bossie doktors and indigenous rights.
Using a multi-method research process, SLF supported these groups to work together and identify the accountability issues that they felt were important, and then consider how they could raise their voice collectively to those in power and those who shape and implement policy. As well as providing valuable findings, which SLF fed into the policy dialogue, this process also strengthened the capacity of these groups to speak out – not least through the use of different participatory technologies including digital storytelling, filmmaking, PhotoVoice, geospatial mapping and infographics.
This report reflects on the different tools used, considering not just the effectiveness of the outputs generated but also how these tools can empower citizens and bring marginalised groups together. Lastly, the report reflects on SLF’s role as an intermediary organisation, and how this role can influence the path that marginalised groups take in their efforts to make government more responsive to their needs.
A team of researchers from the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) knowledge hub at the Institute of Development Studies, WaterAid and Praxis adopted an Immersive Research Approach (IRA) to try to gain in-depth understanding of ground realities and community perspectives relevant for the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G). They sought to learn and be open to emerging findings, while keeping a focus on behaviour change.
This note describes what they did, what they learnt, challenges they faced, and lessons and guidance for its use by others.
In this article Jo Guldi asks 'What is a participatory map and when did it emerge?'. She explores participatory democracy's search for new techniques and traces the history of participation going back to it's birth, through to its rise and fall in the West (1969-1978). She goes on to look at participation in social movements in the Global South in the 1970s, and highlights the rise of the walking tour in development economics. Map driven movements for control over cities and land are explored along with participatory maps online. Crucial elements such as power are considered in the context of mapping, and Jo also describes how collaborative maps became an indigenous tool for the Cree of North America when facing legal contestation of their native land.
In this chapter, Robert Chambers and Nicholas Loubere have a conversation in which they discuss: the nature of Robert's research; his contribution to development; shifts in the methodological mainstream; inherent tensions in development research; the limits of freedom and participation; power verses democracy; ignorance, biases and misconceptions in research; local knowledge and multiple realities; how to move from extraction to co-production; positionality, engagement and dissemination; and pluralism and emergence. The text is based on an audio recording of an interview that took place at IDS in June 2014.
This book explores the international diffusion of Participatory Budgeting (PB), a local policy created in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which has now spread worldwide. The book argues that the action of a group of individuals called ’Ambassadors of Participation’ was crucial to make PB part of the international agenda. This international dimension has been largely overlooked in the vast literature produced on participatory democracy devices. The book combines public policy analysis and the study of international relations, and makes a broad comparative study of PB, including cases from Latin America, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. The book also presents a new methodology developed to examine PB diffusion, the ‘transnational political ethnography’, which combines in-depth interviews, participant observation and document analysis both at the local and transnational level.
Two of the central challenges in building accountability for marginalised people are how to reach and meaningfully involve the most excluded, and how to establish the kinds of relationships that mean they can achieve, influence and expect government responsiveness.
This report explores how participatory video – an existing methodology for engaging marginalised people – can be adapted and strengthened to inclusively engage citizens and foster responses from decision-makers. It presents four propositions for achieving this.
Proposition 1: Ensure inclusive engagement during group-forming and building.
Proposition 2: Develop shared purpose and group agency through video exploration and sense-making.
Proposition 3: Enable horizontal scaling through community-level videoing action.
Proposition 4: Support the performance of vertical influence through video-mediated communication.
Each of these propositions is discussed in relation to three concepts that are important elements of accountability initiatives: enabling spaces, bonding and bridging communication, and power-shifting. The discussion draws on two long-term participatory video processes at five sites in two countries, Indonesia and Kenya. Many participatory governance and accountability processes – and the theoretical discourses and practical approaches underlying them – do not pay enough attention to the need to shape the relational conditions for accountability for marginalised social groups. This can perpetuate exclusionary dynamics. Extended participatory video processes can mediate relationships, but for them to do so, there is a need to develop more ethical and effective participatory video practice, and for more work on how to foster support from influential decision-makers.
This practitioner research, carried out by women’s empowerment organisation FAMM Indonesia, brings the voices of young women – a group consistently excluded from decision-making spaces about the allocation of local government resources – into the conversation about social accountability. Barriers to young (especially unmarried) women’s participation in public spaces include the prevailing view that doing so violates social norms, young women’s often low level of education, and family expectations. Many young women have internalised their marginalisation and lack the confidence to participate in community forums.
This paper describes participatory action research carried out in partnership with eight grassroots Indonesian women’s NGOs. Preliminary focus group discussions laid the foundation for a series of movement-building initiative workshops to strengthen rural young women’s leadership capacity, encourage critical awareness and develop their roles as community organisers. Young women’s social engagement can generate criticism and backlash, which may lead to their losing interest in public forums. As well as empowering participation in formal meetings, the research suggests that young women can overcome closed spaces through building on informal relationships and collaborations. And young women’s involvement in producing creative content (print, audio and multimedia) for use in community organising is used to strengthen their self-esteem and abilities.
The paper ends with a reflective conversation between Niken Lestari of FAMM and Francesca Feruglio of MAVC. They discuss the kind of capacity-building needed to enable young women to overcome barriers to their engagement in local governance spaces, and thus fulfil their own declared potential to contribute much more to the development of their communities.