What do Buzzwords do for Development Policy? A critical look at 'participation', 'empowerment' and 'poverty reduction'
In the fast-moving world of development policy, buzzwords play an important part in framing solutions. Today's development orthodoxies are captured in a seductive mix of such words, among which ‘participation’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘poverty reduction’ take a prominent place. This paper takes a critical look at how these three terms have come to be used in international development policy, exploring how different configurations of words frame and justify particular kinds of development interventions.
It analyses their use in the context of two contemporary development policy instruments, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (prsps) and the Millennium Development Goals (mdgs). We show how words that once spoke of politics and power have come to be reconfigured in the service of today's one-size-fits-all development recipes, spun into an apoliticised form that everyone can agree with. As such, we contend, their use in development policy may offer little hope of the world free of poverty that they are used to evoke.
In a time of rapid change, when global forces are re-shaping the ability of ordinary people to influence the decisions which affect their lives, social change practitioners are challenged to learn new skills and competences, and to develop their capacities for learning through critical reflection on action. Drawing on two international dialogues, and linking to the authors' perceptions of the fault-lines that underlie some elements of higher education, the article explores learning needs for action researchers who aspire to promote participation as a key element of social change.
The article presents the story of an innovative masters teaching programme within which action research is central to the overall learning process. Highlighting key challenges and also some unanticipated learning outcomes in regard to personal inquiry into identity, relationships, positionality and power, the article highlights issues relating to teaching and learning methods of reflective practice, bridging the personal and political and linking individual to systemic change.
This article describes the exploratory and preparatory phase of a research project designed to use co-operative enquiry as a method for transformative and participatory action research into relations between donors and recipients in two developing countries, Bolivia and Bangladesh. It describes the origins of the idea, the conceptual challenges that the authors faced in seeking funding, and what they learned from this first phase. The authors analyse why the researchers, as well as the potential subjects of the research, were uncomfortable with the proposed methodology, including the challenges arising from their own positions and the highly sensitive nature of the topic. They explain why they decided to abandon the project, and they reach some tentative conclusions concerning the options for participatory action learning and research in development practice.
The benefits of participatory methodologies to develop effective community dialogue in the context of a microbicide trial feasibility study in Mwanza, Tanzania
During a microbicide trial feasibility study among women at high-risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections in Mwanza, northern Tanzania we used participatory research tools to facilitate open dialogue and partnership between researchers and study participants.
A community-based sexual and reproductive health service was established in ten city wards. Wards were divided into seventy-eight geographical clusters, representatives at cluster and ward level elected and a city-level Community Advisory Committee (CAC) with representatives from each ward established. Workshops and community meetings at ward and city-level were conducted to explore project-related concerns using tools adapted from participatory learning and action techniques such as listing, scoring, ranking, chapatti diagrams and pair-wise matrices.
Key issues identified included beliefs that blood specimens were being sold for witchcraft purposes; worries about specula not being clean; inadequacy of transport allowances; and delays in reporting laboratory test results to participants. To date, the project has responded by inviting members of the CAC to visit the laboratory to observe how blood and genital specimens are prepared; demonstrated the use of the autoclave to community representatives; raised reimbursement levels; introduced HIV rapid testing in the clinic; and streamlined laboratory reporting procedures.
Participatory techniques were instrumental in promoting meaningful dialogue between the research team, study participants and community representatives in Mwanza, allowing researchers and community representatives to gain a shared understanding of project-related priority areas for intervention.
A Time for Transformation: Opportunities and Challenges from Participatory Development for Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century
We share a world in which poverty remains endemic, social injustice is widespread, and the voices of millions of disadvantaged people remain unheard. Education plays a critical role as transmitter, reproducer or resistor of a complex weave of knowledge and power relations, influencing development processes and outcomes throughout the world. These complex relationships are seldom explored in the context of higher education, even though higher education is itself becoming transformed through changes in its purposes and priorities, and the transfer of policies, curricula and methods of assessment between countries. Are higher education institutions equipped and ready to transform themselves to meet the challenge of contributing to "good change" that spans the local and the global?
At this early stage of the 21st Century, to what extent do, and should, the goals of higher education institutions go beyond the generation of wealth and the advancement of self-recognition? How can they narrow the gap between what they "know" and what they "do"? One example is through closer engagement with the wider community and through participatory research and co-construction of knowledge. Another example is through participatory mechanisms that promote collaborative learning and sustainable development. This paper suggests that there is much to be done by higher education institutions to meet the challenges we face and that now is the time to do it.
This article draws on literature from both monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and organisational learning to explore synergies between these two fields in support of organisational performance. Two insights from the organisational learning literature are that organisations learn through ‘double-loop’ learning: reflecting on experience and using this to question critically underlying assumptions; and that power relations within an organisation will influence what and whose learning is valued and shared. This article identifies four incentives that can help link M&E with organisational learning: the incentive to learn why; the incentive to learn from below; the incentive to learn collaboratively; and the incentive to take risks. Two key elements are required to support these incentives: (1) establishing and promoting an ‘evaluative culture’ within an organisation; and (2) having accountability relationships where value is placed on learning ‘why’, as well as on learning from mistakes, which requires trust.