This edition of the IDS Bulletin features papers by researchers and practitioners associated with the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC), an international research partnership dedicated to exploring the new forms of citizenship which are needed to make rights real for poor people.|The Citizenship DRC brings together over 50 researchers from research institutions and civil society groups based in Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and the U.K. It encourages collaborative work across national, institutional and disciplinary boundaries. Researchers have formed thematic working groups, and each group has its own website to share experiences.|This issue is split into the following sections:|1. Meanings and Expressions of Rights and Citizenship: - Citizenship, Affiliation and Exclusion: Perspectives from the South - Agendas in Encountering Citizens in the Nigerian Context - Making Rights Real in Bangladesh through Collective Citizen Action - Citizenship, Science and Risk: Conceptualising Relationships across Issues and Settings|2. Concepts and Practices of Participation: - Locating Citizen Participation - Linking Citizenship, Participation and Accountability: A Perspective from PRIA - Deliberative Fora and the Democratisation of Social Policies in Brazil - Citizenship and the 'Right to Education': Perspectives from the Indian Context - Participation of Indigenous and Rural People in the Construction of Developmental and Environmental Public Policies in Mexico|3. Dimensions of Accountability: - From Responsibility to Citizenship? Corporate Accountability for Development - Who speaks for Whom? A look at civil society Accountability in Bioprospecting Debates in Mexico
Concepts and methods of ‘participation’ are used increasingly to shape policy and deliver services. Such approaches throw new light on complex interactions within and between society and state institutions at all levels. They lead to questions about how different kinds of knowledge and values shape policy choices. What are the societal and political processes through which power operates that inform whose voice is heard and whose is excluded? What is power? Is it about making people act against their best interests; or is it the glue that keeps society together? What are the connections between power and social change? These questions are at the core of research and teaching by the Participation, Power and Social Change Team at IDS, and this IDS Bulletin presents current work on the practice of power in development and the entry points for change. Contributions to this issue, and ways in which power is interrogated, are very varied – despite a shared commitment to exploring its meaning for social change. In categorising power in the way the team has, the intention has not been to offer a comprehensive or exclusive framework for analysis. Rather, a positive spiral between reflection and transformation is constructed, concluding that the role of the action researcher/teacher is to explore with others how power can be harnessed for change, and to work alongside them in tracing and learning from the myriad of micro-level efforts, successes and failures.
This article makes a case for using participatory communication in research. It introduces participatory communication as a citizen-led approach to both creating and expressing knowledge: within research this means that researchers are not simply responsible for generating information and communicating about it, neither are they acting alone. From this perspective the emphasis of participatory communication is on communicating rather than extracting or delivering information. Participatory methods can communicate research findings in new ways and add depth and meaning to articulations of knowledge. This knowledge can easily get ‘lost in translation’ when findings are synthesised or communicated through conventional research outputs alone.
Action research provides an alternative approach to bringing about changes in knowledge, policy and practice. But to be effective and inclusive, taking into account complex dynamics of power and participation, action research requires capable facilitators with particular skills – such as the ability to give attention to personal and collective processes of reflection and action. This article explores the challenges of learning to do this kind of action research that are faced by practitioners and activists working for social change in diverse contexts around the world. It reviews these challenges, offering insights and lessons from an innovative master’s degree programme called the MA in Participation, Power and Social Change, which uses action research and reflective practice as the basis of its approach to learning.
Participatory processes at the grassroots can have a powerful impact. But what happens afterwards to the learning and knowledge generated? Are these experiences translated into wider organisational learning, and if so how – or why not? And what impact do they have on decision-making or strategic planning within INGOs? This special issue of PLA explores how widely the impacts created from participatory processes spread from their original source. Following an initial overview, the 24 articles are divided into four parts: Part 1 looks at participatory communication practice and how the information is generated; Part 2 is about making sense of the dynamics of interpretation and use of participatory outputs; Part 3 is about learning in organisations and Part 4 explores structures, mechanisms and spaces.
The landscape of research communication in development has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years. The very visible emergence of new technologies has been accompanied by other shifts in the politics and business of development knowledge: the understanding of what constitutes “expert knowledge” in development, a growing emphasis on process over product in development research and new understandings of what drives social change and policy influence.
With the rise of participatory and co-constructed communications have come suggestions that we have neglected the rigour and “hard evidence” needed to influence policy. As some have turned back to grassroots forms of communication such as community radio, they face ambivalence from others struggling to see what is new or innovative about such ‘archaic’ approaches. As such we find ourselves at an interesting juncture, one that this Bulletin aims to explore by drawing on the experiences of practitioners, theorists and community intermediaries from a wide range of disciplines.