participation: our vision @
Course: Participatory Project Formulation
Participatory Attitudes and Key Principles of Applying Participatory Methods/Tools
1. Every idea counts / everybody’s view counts
A simple fact, neglected by many persons, is to recognize that different individuals and groups have – according to their respective background - different perceptions and thus assess situations differently, which then leads them to different actions.
This applies to each and every single person – including facilitators and promoters of participatory processes. Everyone’s view is heavy with interpretation, bias and prejudice which implies that there are multiple descriptions and interpretations of real world phenomena, events and actions..
Accepting this, leads to an understanding which is a necessary basis for all participatory processes: everyone is different and can offer important contributions to a process, as their views can complement those others, although they may look worthless or provocative at first sight.
everybody thinks the same, there is not much
Facilitators and promoters as well as any other person involved in participatory processes should adopt a learning attitude, through which they learn from the persons/groups they are working with – rather than a teaching or preaching attitude.
This “learning attitude” can be enhanced by acknowledging persons/groups’ experiences in and knowledge of their own context and living conditions, by considering them as experts in dealing with their own situation and problems. Thus the role of a facilitator is to enhance the involvement of all concerned persons/groups by supporting processes (such as investigation, analysis and evaluation of problems, constraints and opportunities, and taking informed and timely decisions).
Participatory decision-making requires readiness to reach a "win-win" compromise from all sides. An atmosphere of mutual trust is the basis for compromise and constructive co-operation and transparency by all stakeholders is a basic requirement.
Transparency will help to avoid hidden agendas and suspicion amongst different parties and thus to prevent situations in which all parties try to protect their own interests rather than finding the most suitable compromise for all parties involved.
Being open to other persons’ ideas and opinions is often the most difficult aspect of participatory processes. Often, their views may be difficult to understand and contradictory or incompatible with one's own ideas and beliefs. Accepting this reality requires a high degree of flexibility, as well as courage to set aside for a moment one’s own perception and neutrally follow the process, being ready to rethink and replan at any stage, if necessary.
Key Principles of Applying Participatory Methods and Tools
1. Leading to action and debate about change
Participatory processes lead to debates about desired changes in existing conditions and hence changes in the perceptions of the actors and their readiness to contemplate action. The process of joint analysis and dialogue helps to define desired changes and seeks to motivate people to implement them. This action includes local institution-building and strengthening, thus increasing the capacity of people to initiate collective self-help action aimed at improving their own futures.
2. Iterative Action and Stepwise Analysis
Participation is an iterative process which should continue throughout the project cycle. Decisions/agreements should be revisited periodically and checked for validity, and adjusted to changes that may have occured in the conditions/situations/needs in the meantime.
This implies that analytical processes should follow a stepwise procedure. That means: to focus on general information gathering in the beginning, then on specific topics, and finally enter into a detailed (in-depth) analysis of local problems, needs and potentials. Additionally, the facilitation team should constantly review their findings in order to determine in which direction to proceed.
3. Multiple perspectives / triangulation
Once the different points of view have been taken into consideration, the output of the analysis/discussion will be provide a more complete and accurate picture of the situation under review. Therefore, when trying to facilitate a participatory process, one should seek to mix team composition, tools and techniques, as well as sources of information/interest groups:
4. Flexibility in applying instruments and choosing degree of precision
There is no a recipe nor blueprint on how to facilitate participatory processes. Methods and tools should not be used mechanically but should be context specific and appropriate to address the question or topic under discussion. The selection of a particular tool should also determined by the specific characteristics of the society/community/ group the participation team is working with.
For example, the aim of participatory problem analysis is not to achieve absolute accuracy (one does not have to know/discuss everything), but an appropriate or adequate degree of precision. In order to determine what is “adequate”, facilitators should ask themselves “What kind of information is required, for what purpose, and how much information will people need for their analysis?”
5. Visual Sharing
Through visualization within a participatory process, participants have the opportunity to follow a discussion easier, especially illiterate people and people who join a session later than others. Maps, diagrams, rankings and other forms of visualization tools also promote consensual decision-making since everybody is able to directly express their opinion on a chart or on the ground.
6. Group Learning
Participatory workshops and other complex participatory processes are best facilitated by the use of interdisciplinary teams, since the complexity of most situations will only be revealed through group analysis and interaction, thus allowing for different experts to contribute.
7. Self-critical Awareness
Promoters/facilitators of participatory processes have to be extremely careful to constantly analyze their own biases. This means to constantly reflect upon the phenomena they feel they have perceived, actually heard and observed and which they have already judged or interpreted.
Working Group on
Participatory Approaches & Methods
...to support Sustainable Livelihoods
& Food Security