This paper is about the practice and the potential of immersions. Immersions are occasions when professionals learn directly from encounters with poor and marginalised people by living with them and reflecting on the experience. Those taking part may be the staff of bilateral and multilateral agencies, diplomats, parliamentarians, government officials, NGO staff, academics, or other development professionals.|Aims were to:|describe types and purposes of immersions;|review practical experience with immersion design, logistical organisation and the host community;|assess the rationale and impact of immersions, including better awareness of the realites of poor and marginalised people, personal and institutional learning and change, reinvigorated commitment, and influence on decision-making and policy;|identify enabling conditions for making immersion experiences a normal, regular and expected activity for development professionals, together with good practices.|Authors' summary
This briefing looks at how participatory immersion techniques can be used to promote advocacy in policy planning, focussing specifically on gaining insight into the situation of the poor. Senior staff in aid agencies are involved in daily decisions about policy and practice which have direct impact on the lives of poor people. But in a rapidly changing world, how can they be sure that they are basing those decisions on up-to-date information about what poor people want and would consider to be most helpful? REALISE is a participatory approach to learning, whereby staff from policy institutions and donor agencies spend a few days living and working with host families in a poor community. This enables them to engage in critical self-reflection both on their own and in a facilitated group and can bring long-term benefits to the practice of development. The experience increases motivation and commitment and the personal contact ensures that poor peopleÆs voices and perspectives are heard and integrated into new policy approaches and practice at senior level.