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PRCA Tools and Techniques


To present an overview of the main categories of tools and techniques of PRCA and the information they commonly generate.

At the end of this chapter you will be able to:

1. Identify the main categories of PRCA tools and techniques.

2. Indicate the various suggested PRCA tools and techniques for facilitating certain activities or collecting different types of information.

3. Describe the various activities and information commonly facilitated with PRCA tools and techniques.

4. Describe the differences between PRCA tools and techniques for collecting information and those for probing and analysis.

4.1 Overview of PRCA tools and techniques

Tools and techniques used for PRCA are mainly borrowed from other participatory appraisal approaches such as PRA, PLA, etc. Since most of these tools and techniques are visual in nature, they remove the need for high levels of literacy and numeracy on the part of community members.

The primary purpose of PRCA tools and techniques is to enable groups in the community to express and analyse their knowledge. They help the people to map and diagram their situation and environment in the most comfortable and non-threatening manner using materials and symbols that they are used to. The tools and techniques also assist the people to easily identify and prioritise their needs, opportunities, problems, strengths, weaknesses and threats. They facilitate the development of a visual language common to the villagers and the PRCA team and thus ensure better communication and mutual understanding.

In selecting tools and techniques for a PRCA, it is advisable to start with those that can engage large numbers of people and present a broad picture of the community. These tools and techniques create excitement among the people and help the community warm up. Also bear the following in mind when selecting the tools and techniques:

4.2 PRCA tools and techniques for getting to know one another, warming-up and energising

4.2.1 Tools and techniques for getting to know one another

Introduction of participants in a PRCA to one another is a crucial part of the exercise. It is an opportunity for the PRCA team to tell the community who they are and where they come from. It is also the moment to open up discussions with the community about the focus and scope of the PRCA in order to ensure that there is mutual understanding about the agenda of the appraisal between the team and the community.

Introductions can be done in many ways; some simple and straight forward others more innovative, complex and entertaining. The simple ones include self-introduction or introduction of the team and community members by their respective leaders. The more complex ones include paired interviews or self-introduction accompanied by some type of demonstration by the person to depict a part of her personality or profession. For instance, a village carpenter introduces himself and mimics himself at work building a table or something else.

4.2.2 Tools and techniques for warming up

Generally, some warming up often precedes the introductions described above. This is often in the form of welcoming songs and dances by the community. The PRCA team should participate in such activities, as long as it is acceptable to the community.

Figure 11: Dialogue with Ovahimba men in Namibia.

Apart from the initial warm-up, it is advisable to begin the PRCA information gathering with tools and techniques that break down the barriers of inhibition and shyness as well as build the confidence and kindle the creativity of the community members and the PRCA team. Such tools and techniques help in team building and at assisting the people to describe the geography and the history of their community; information they are familiar with and proud of and therefore do not find threatening. Sketch maps and historical time lines are recommended as the tools for starting a PRCA. Sketch maps help the community to model their village and identify structural, human and communication resources they own. Time lines, on the other hand, produce accounts of the community's history and help to ascertain how the people have coped with certain changes that have occurred in their life.

Figure 12: A PRCA Team shares knowledge with women in a village in Zambia.

4.2.3 Tools and techniques for energising

Energisers are techniques used during the PRCA sessions as interlude activities. They can be used to encourage more teamwork, to revitalise the people's creativity or break up an argument. Energisers can also be used as the bridge between one activity and another. Encourage the community to come up with their own energiser activities.

4.3 PRCA tools and techniques to know more about the community

4.3.1 Tools and techniques for collecting geographical data

Various types of maps and transects are used for collecting geographical information about a community. These tools and techniques assist the community to visually define the various types of people in the village, residential areas, infrastructure, shops, soils, water sources, institutions, communication resources etc. available in the community. They also show the community surroundings, lands, cattle posts, wildlife and other important features (hills, rivers, etc).

The most common sketch maps are Village/Resource map, Social map, Thematic map, Farm sketch and three-dimensional map or model. These maps are a very good communication aid. All people, even those who have never been to school can make and use maps. Drawing maps has proven to be such an enjoyable exercise that it can be used as the first tool in a PRCA to stimulate participation. Mapping is usually performed with a lot of enthusiasm and they set the right trend in terms of active participation of the community in a PRCA.

Transects are walks which take the PRCA team and selected members of the community through the village and allows them to see the range of features, resources and conditions across the area. Transects, often come after the drawing of maps and they are used to verify information gathered from maps. The walk rarely follows a straight line, but often zigzags through different areas.

4.3.2 Tools and techniques for collecting historical and other time-related data

Time related information and the history of the community could be discovered using such PRCA tools and techniques time lines, trend lines and seasonal calendar.

4.4 PRCA tools and techniques for data collection on communication issues

4.4.1 Tools and techniques for identifying community communication resources and networks

With such PRCA tools as communication linkage diagram, pair-wise preference ranking, direct matrix ranking, scoring, the communication and information networks, systems and channels of the key interaction group(s) can be defined.

These tools can be used to reveal the groups' preferred modern and traditional information sources both within and from outside the community. These can range from cultural/religious events, rituals, art, drawings, story-telling, dances, songs, role-play, drama, to audio-visual and print media. These tools can also help to identify influential people and institutions the groups see as credible e.g. role-models, leaders, trend-setters.

4.4.2 Tools and techniques for revealing community perceptions

For finding out how the various groups in the community perceive and define their problems, solutions and needs such PRCA tools and techniques as focus group discussions (FGDs), problem tree and windows of perceptions can be used. FGDs can also be used to determine the awareness level of the community concerning the issues under investigation. In the same way, the community's' attitude and level of interest in a particular issue can also be determined through FGD and the ranking they ascribe to the issue through various PRCA tools especially the problem tree.

Figure 13: Men discussing prefered information sources in a Zimbabwean village.

4.4.3 Tools and techniques for studying community beliefs, knowledge and practices

FGDs, in-depth interviews and observation are the suggested tools for studying the community's beliefs, knowledge, skills and practices in relation to the problems and solutions under discussion.

While finding out all the above information it is also important to identify with the groups any additional information, knowledge, skills and resources they might need in order to solve the problem. The tools and techniques also help to identify the idioms, vocabulary, cultural norms and associations, symbols and stories the community uses in discussing the development issues.

4.5 PRCA tools and techniques for probing and analysing critical issues

4.5.1 Tools and techniques for problem identification and analysis

Tools and techniques such as access and control profile, livelihood mapping, gender analysis, brainstorming and the problem tree are often used for problem identification and analysis. They are also used for identifying and analysing the needs, opportunities, problems and solutions (NOPS) of specific groups in the community. Remember also that all the other tools and techniques contain specific elements that point to the NOPS of the community. Although the NOPS might not be apparent as the tools are being used, probing or interviewing the community about the tools and techniques brings out the needs, opportunities, problems and solutions as well as the people's strengths, weaknesses and threats,

4.5.2 Tools and techniques for matching, grading and rating

During a PRCA, a lot of information, especially about the needs, opportunities and problems of specific groups in the community are discovered. However, bearing in mind that both the capabilities of the people and resources of any outside development agency are limited only the most important of these discoveries will be given preference. To assist the community in rating, ranking, matching, sorting and scoring the PRCA findings, certain tools and techniques are recommended. These include wealth ranking, shopping, open and closed ranking and scoring, preference ranking pairwise ranking.

4.5.3 Tools and techniques for probing

Quite often during a PRCA, the emerging information does not contain all the details necessary for making useful decisions about them. To ensure that such crucial details are discovered, PRCA uses such tools and techniques as focus group discussions, dynamic group discussions, key informant interviews and In-depth interviews to probe for more information.

You are reminded that the tools and techniques mentioned in this chapter are contained in the toolbox in this handbook.

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