As change accelerates, development professionals fine themselves more than ever explorers of an unknown and unknowable future. This brings opportunities, excitement and surprises, and demands continuous critical reflection and learning. In the opening part of this book, Robert Chambers reviews his own life, including his early career, participation in the World Bank’s Voice of the Poor project and research and engagement in South Asia on canal irrigation. These experiences led him to examine personal biases and predispositions, and to recognize the pervasive significance of power in forming and framing knowledge.
The book then reflects on a journey of learning, and encourages readers to learn from observation, curiosity, critical feedback, plan and fun. Participatory workshops have been the source of much enjoyable exploration and have evolved in unexpected directions. Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and community-led total sanitation (CLTS) are two movements that have benefitted from sharing practices and innovations through participatory workshops. Experience-based practical tips for facilitating such workshop are presented – 21 for learning, for managing large groups and for co-generating knowledge to influence policy and practice. Finally, the author argues that the new dual realities – virtual and physical – are getting out of balance, and encourages readers to enjoy exploring through experiential learning in the physical and social world.
Knowledge from the Margins: An Anthology from a Global Network on Participatory Practice and Policy Influence
The Participate initiative involves 18 organisations, who work with diverse marginalised people in over 30 countries, coming together to make their voices count on development policy. This anthology is an account of the activities carried out by the Participatory Research Group (PRG) within the Participate initiative between 2012 and 2014, and also a reflection on the methods and processes created and utilised during that time. It aims to share the insights and lessons learnt to help promote thought and discussion about how to use participatory approaches to influence policy at a variety of levels. These experiences include: applying, adapting and innovating participatory methods to promote the voices of participants in all stages of the research process; creating opportunities and spaces for including the perspectives articulated through the research where possible in the policymaking processes; and embedding participatory approaches in local-to global policymaking processes.
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.