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Course: Participatory Project Formulation



Key Concepts




Scope of Action

Project Cycle


Approaches to

Rapid Rural

Participatory Rural

Participatory Action Research

Principles, Attitudes

Project Cycle

Type of Participatory

Application of participatory tools in the different project stages

Sector Specific Use
of Participatory Tools

List of Documents


Strong or weak

Stakeholder analysis


Rapid Rural Appraisal

Rapid rural appraisal developed in the 1970s and 1980s in response to the perceived problems of outsiders missing or miscommunicating with local people in the context of development work. These were triggered when agriculture based action-research revealed that many findings in laboratory and conventional research are irrelevant. This is because the research was not tested in the real-life situation of the farmers and did not benefit from the lifelong experience of those who are familiar with the situation being researched.

The pioneering work of Robert Chambers and Gordon Conway in a technique called rapid rural appraisal (RRA) was one example of an attempt to include the interests of the poor in the design of programmes and projects. The importance of RRA was that it recognised the need to consult the poor on their needs and that it very quickly showed the inherent limitations of this superficial tour to reality.

Rapid Rural Appraisal consists of a series of techniques for "quick and dirty" research that are claimed to generate results of less apparent precision, but greater evidential value, than classic quantitative survey techniques. The method is economical of the researcher's time and is essentially extractive as a process: the agenda is still that of the outside researcher.

RRA is mainly seen as a means far outsiders to gather information; and hence, the need to replace or supplement it with participatory rural appraisal (PRA) which empowers the local people. The difference is that PRA emphasises processes which empower local people, whereas RRA is mainly seen as a means for outsiders to gather information."

Below you find a comparison of the Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA).

Table: RRA and PRA compared*
Developed in late 1970s, 1980s late 1980s, 1990s
Key Resources local people's knowledge local people's capabilities
Main innovations methods change of behaviour and attitudes
Mode extractive facilitating, participatory
Dominant type of instruments semi-structured, verbal interviews, discussions; partly visual visual, participatory and empowering tools
Outsider's role investigator catalyst and facilitator
Insider's role respondent investigator, analyst and planner
Ideal objectives learning from insiders by outsiders empowerment of local people
On whose demand outside (donor) organizations insiders (ideally)
Longer term outcomes plans, projects, publiciations sustanalbe local action and institutions

* partly adapted from Schönhuth/Kievelitz 1994: Participaotry Learning Approaches. Source: Seiffert, Bernd (1998): Participatory Needs Appraisal - Institutional Analysis and Exploration of Area-Specific Differentiation for the Mpofu Magisterial District, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Bisho: Community Based Development Planning Project (CBDP).

Sources: Overview of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)


  Informal Working Group on
  Participatory Approaches & Methods
...to support Sustainable Livelihoods  
& Food Security