This IDS working paper is one of a series arising from the Pathways to Participation project which was initiated in Jan 1999 by the Participation Group, with the aim of taking stock of the first 10 years of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). There is a tendency to call any development practice that in some way involves local people 'participatory', and a huge diversity of meanings and practices can be hidden under this umbrella term. Additionally, the term 'participation' has become uncritically associated with 'empowerment'. Such oversimplified representations ignore the fact that participatory practice will vary greatly according to the context within which it operates. The paper analyses one particular approach to participatory development developed by SPEECH, an NGO working in Tamil Nadu, India, focusing specifically on gender relations. The paper draws on fieldwork from two communities - Kottam and Maniyampatti - in which SPEECH have been working for a lengthy period. The authors suggest that SPEECH's participatory practices are shaped by how both the staff and the local actors understand participation. As a result, the two communities have developed different participatory processes. The paper describes the notion that empowerment through participation is a relational and varied process occurring in spaces where people are able to interact according to an 'unusual' set of rules (i.e. during PRA workshops). The authors contend that such a process can have wider effects on social relations in everyday life, although, in this particular case study, certain aspects of gender relations have remained unchanged.
Community participation in ICT-for-development (ICT4D) is sometimes portrayed as a ‘magic bullet’, which will inevitably lead to better project outcomes and the empowerment of marginalised participants from the local community. This paper takes a critical approach to participation, drawing on dual roots of participation in Development Studies and Information Systems, to consider whether apparently successful ICT4D projects, that follow best-practice for participation, are also succeeding in longer-term participant and community empowerment. The paper identifies issues and success factors relevant to participatory ICT4D and its potentially empowering role for local communities; explores the relevance of these factors to the reality of ICT4D projects in developing countries; and investigates the potential for producing an analytical framework that incorporates a project design approach that could help practitioners in the field incorporate empowerment objectives.
A participatory approach in practice : understanding fieldworkers' use of participatory rural appraisal in ActionAid The Gambia
Why do field workers use participatory approaches as they do? This paper uses a case study of fieldworkers' use of Participatory Rural Appraisal in ActionAid The Gambia to address the question. Original empirical material that focuses on fieldworkers' perceptions of the factors that influence them is examined through the conceptual framework of structuration theory. The dissertation argues that the practice of a participatory approach emerges from a complex process of negotiation where fieldworkers are subject to unique combinations of competing influences from the organisation they work for, the communities they work with and their own personal characteristics. It suggests that fieldworkers can actively pursue personal agendas and can also be involved in changing the structures that condition their actions. However the dissertation concludes that elements of the organisational structure can leave little room for fieldworkers to use their agency positively. Managers need to change this structure if the gap between the policy and practice of participatory approaches is to be reduced. A deeper understanding of fieldworker's use of participatory approaches will make it possible to establish what changes are required to improve the implementation and institutionalisation of these approaches.
Meaningful accountability can shift power imbalances that prevent sustainable development for people living in poverty and marginalisation. Accountability consists of both the rights of citizens to make claims and demand a response, and the involvement of citizens in ensuring that related action is taken.
However, for the poorest and most marginalised people accountability is often unattainable. This briefing draws on research by the Participate initiative to highlight the key components necessary for processes of accountability to be meaningful for all.
This paper describes an approach to action research used by a group of young people in Karamoja, Uganda. With guidance from experienced facilitators, 13 young people researched the situation of youth in their area over a period of 5 weeks in November/December 2011. The basic principles used are set out in this paper. Genuine attempts were made to promote people’s research into their own issues on their own terms. This included asking questions such as who commissions and pays, how pressed everyone is for resources and time, and how ordinary people – who are not supposed to know how to do research – might suddenly take up the task with confidence and make use of facilitators without being dominated by them. The paper emphasises the importance of rigour in action research which can appear relaxed but actually is not: it needs to be done carefully and stick to its principles like glue. The findings of the research are published in a longer report “Strength, Creativity and Livelihoods of Karimojong Youth” which should be read alongside this paper.