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.
Field observations have led many people to believe that beneficiary participation in decision making can contribute greatly to the success of development projects. When people influence or control the decisions that affect them, they have a greater stake in the outcome and will work harder to ensure success. But the evidence supporting this reasoning is qualitative so that many practictioners remain skeptical. Three questions need to be addressed: to what degree does participation contribute to project effectiveness? which beneficiary and agency characteristics foster the process? and, if participation does benefit project outcomes, how can it be encouraged through policy and project design? To answer these questions, researchers studied evaluations of 121 completed rural water supply projects in forty-nine developing countries around the world. The results show that beneficiary participation contributes significantly to project effectiveness, even after statistically controlling for the effects of 17 other factors. The basic conclusion of this study is that rural water projects must be fundamentally redesigned in order to reach the one billion rural poor who lack a sustainable water supply. Redesign must encompass a shift from supply-driven planning to demand-responsive, participatory approaches to ensure beneficiary participation, control, and ownership.