that this text, as it is connected to the “Field Tools Section”,
focuses primarily on participatory learning/facilitation of participatory
processes largely from an outsider's perspective rather than participatory
learning from an insider's persective or on participatory institution-building
speaking, participation is a collective action aimed at achieving
a common objective; it means "taking part" and "getting
involved". The main task of the facilitator/outside agent
is therefore to encourage and involve people in the process/activity.
In a participatory
process, persons/groups share knowledge, ideas, opinions, votes,
materials, labour, finances etc. in order to reach a common
agreement or reach joint decisions in a transparent way.
different levels of participation, ranging from passive participation,
where people are involved merely by providing information to others
or being told what is going to happen, to active participation/self-mobilization
where people take initiatives independently from external institutions.
describes a progressive process of participation that enables
local stakeholders to take initiative and work actively
in their own interest. This goes far beyond simply widening access
to decision making. It implies making people understand the
reality of their situation, reflect on the factors that influence
the situation, and – most critically - take steps to effect changes
to improve it.
participatory methods/approaches/tools, it is of utmost importance
not only to know how a particular participation technique is applied,
but also to understand the key principles that lie behind the technique
and which attitudes are necessary to enhance a participatory process.
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.
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..
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.
Where everybody thinks the same, there is not much thinking!
2. The learning attitude
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
Applying Participatory Methods and Tools
to action and debate about change
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.
Action and Stepwise Analysis
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
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.
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:
multidisciplinarity, gender, different backgrounds and skills, insiders
interviewing, mapping, diagramming, ranking, observing, discussing,
using secondary data
of Information/Interest Groups
women and men, elders and youth, differnt socioeconomic groups, different
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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