This paper focuses on the role of an NGO, MYRADA, in fostering participation in collaborative watershed management projects in India. It was decided that effective participation required the size of watershed management areas had to be small enough for people to be familiar with, and for families to be able to function together. the PIDOW project aimed to build their management capacities. This paper (i) presents an assessment of the degree of people's participation in various aspects of soil and water conservation, and forestry and horticulture programmes; (ii) explores what is meant by effective participation, and the roles of staff members in fostering participation; (iii) discusses structural features of people's institutions; and (iv) presents an analysis of groups in three PIDOW mini watersheds. This paper would be of interest to those involved in participatory watershed management projects, particularly those involving collaboration between government, NGO's and local people.