This paper discusses community exchange programmes as a powerful mechanism for increasing the capacity of community organisations to participate in urban development. By enabling communities to share and explore local knowledge created through livelihood struggles, a powerful process is triggered, whereby community exchanges transform development. Through a cumulative process of learning, sharing and collective action, strong sustained and mobilised networks of communities emerge. Central to this has been the sharing of experiences between communities, first at very local levels, then in the city, then nationally and internationally. The development of this methodology by the National Slum Dwellers Association, SPARC (an NGO) and Mahila Milan (a federation of women's cooperatives) in India is described. Exchanges are located within a broader approach to community learning and people's empowerment. Benefits of the exchange process are examined, and the paper reflects on why exchanges are an effective methodology for supporting a process of people-centred development. The necessary conditions for the exchange process to be fully effective are reviewed, which consequently point to the distinct characteristics of the exchange process vis-Ó-vis other participation methodology. It concludes by drawing together some of the wider implications of this approach.
Community to community exchanges, which enable poor people to plan, control and negotiate their own development strategies, are the focus of this paper, particularly in the context of squatters/slum dwellers. These exchanges, which spread to international exchanges amongst the urban poor, have birthed a people's movement of global proportions. The paper begins by summarising the urban context in which these organisations emerged, and the scale and nature of the development challenge they face. The emergence of Mahila Milan - a network of women's savings collectives formed by women pavement dwellers in India - is described as a precursor of the initiative, while the need for new models of urban development led to a search for ways of enhancing community learning and hence, exchanges. The ways in which the network can support its members through international exchanges are identified and discussed. A concluding section considers some of the wider implications of the work of Shack/ Slum Dwellers International for people-centred development
Participatory methods are frequently extremely good at gathering huge amounts of information, but are often less helpful with the question of how to deal with the information. This article relates some methods that were used to deal with this issue in India, by SPEECH (Society for People's Education and Economic Change), a small field-based NGO, in examining sustainable agriculture. It describes a simplified example of the process, which includes narrowing down the information, interpreting the information, as well as making it relevant for a policy audience. Also crucial are explicit plans for an iterative process of discussion and feedback/ review of the emerging results, in order to validate the research results.
This article provides a summary of the major challenges currently facing PRA, as well as the changes implied by some of these challenges. The challenges are considered at six different levels, namely the individual, community, organisational, project and programme, donor and policy levels. The challenges identified are drawn from the literature on PRA, as well as from a recent series of workshops held by the author with the staff of six NGOs that are promoting PRA in South Asia. The article concludes by attributing these challenges to five cross-cutting factors: differences in power, culture, knowledge, money and time.