Projects with adequate beneficiary participation provide the means to self-organized rural people, group promoters and other staff to make full use of their skills and resources for basic rural development. The major building blocks come from the communities themselves unlike many conventional development projects which often require sizeable funds, technical expertise and extensive administrative support including for "reaching" the beneficiaries.
A participatory project aims at institution-building at grassroot level by promoting beneficiary groups and at higher levels by adapting and/or creating delivery agencies which serve effectively the rural weak (see Section 6.1). For this wide scope a project must overcome various constraints and bottlenecks (see Section 3.3) of such a nature that it simply cannot become self-sustaining and illustrative for expansion and widespread multiplication in a few years.
Consequently the conventional project duration of three to five years is too short for a participatory project and can only be considered as the first stage in a complex participatory process sustained by a rolling programme to attain tangible results and spread effects (see Section 2.5).
Another basic point is that the investment in manpower and other resources would be under-utilized, if not actually wasted, if a project is discontinued because of lack of outside support. For all these reasons a participatory project usually requires some additional years of limited outside assistance for a successful continuation and expansion.
At this point the question arises: when is a participatory project as a whole mature to the extent that external assistance to it can be terminated? Although field research on this topic is lacking, some of the characteristics or indicators of project maturity could be the following:
1) degree of economic viability and profitability at group and family levels, shown e.g. by mobilization of savings, types and numbers of profit-making activities, continuing access of the poor to the delivery system and economic self-reliance of the groups;
2) the types, levels and spread of technical, entrepreneurial, leadership and other skills acquired by the group members; furthermore ability to tap and use technological know-how;
3) degree of social development and political recognition, shown e.g. by the maturity of the groups (see Section 7.1), decision-making capabilities, level of participation and leadership roles of women and youth, efficient links with agencies which deliver services and facilities, level of literacy, and participation of group members in local institutions like cooperatives and government bodies.
Other factors to be considered before terminating external assistance include: (1) The self-sustainability of the groups which do not any more enjoy the guidance of the group promoters; the time taken by a group to become self-propelling is of course, location-specific and varies between 3 and 7 years. (2) The capability and willingness of the implementing agency to manage the project and to handle its expansion; and (3) the political will and efforts of a government to incorporate the participatory approach of the project in its policies, plans and/or programmes.
While outside support is normally indispensable in the initial project phases, strong and systematic efforts must also be made to sensitize policy and decision-makers of relevant government bodies and NGOs to provide more and more local support so that a project can continue and expand in a self-supporting way. It is essential to convince decision-makers that participatory projects are basic to enact sustained rural development. In this perspective each country concerned needs one or more strategies to expand participatory rural development (see also Section 4).
The wealth of experience accumulated in participatory projects indicates that beneficiary participation can be successfully planned and implemented under a variety of socio-economic conditions and with different types of beneficiaries. However, project planners at national and international levels may still be reserved and this is mainly due to the lack of information on participatory projects and their achievements. Insufficient efforts were made to diffuse participatory experience and encouraging results among key policy and decision-makers. Another reason is that participatory projects have usually a low visibility because they stress - in addition to productive activities -education for participation (see Section 3.3, point 1), and they are furthermore implemented mainly at grassroot level and on a limited scale, except in some countries like e.g. Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Practice shows, that if the beneficiary participation component of a project is designed on the basis of the guidelines of this paper. it can be expanded and/or multiplicated with a minimum of outside assistance and recurrent costs (see Section 14).
By expansion of a project is meant hereunder an extension of its operations in new areas which are adjacent to the project's initial ones and by multiplication a propagation of (part of) its operations in other, non-adjacent areas of a country. By the way, multiplication is a better term than replication which has a connotation of "mechanical" or rubber stamp repetition.
Expansion and multiplication of a participatory project may refer to two different types of cases:
a) a project as a whole is launched - with an improved design - in one or more adjacent (expansion) or other areas (multiplication) in a country;
b) only the project's beneficiary participation component (or its successful elements and/or methods) is propagated in the same project area or adjacent ones (expansion) or in other areas (multiplication).
The type of propagation under b) may proceed in two ways viz. either applying the beneficiary participation approach and methods of a project in other projects or programmes, or applying it autonomously under the normal delivery system. The types of propagation under b) are naturally more difficult but still possible, in particular in adjacent zones affected by the spread effects of the field actions of a participatory project.
In all cases where beneficiary participation will be expanded or multiplicated this should be planned and done taking into account the guidelines in this paper and furthermore, where relevant: a) the specific geographic, economic and social conditions of the project area(s) as well as the types of intended beneficiaries; b) the type of project proposed; and c) the experience in beneficiary participation gained in ongoing participatory projects which may serve as reference points or examples. The main scope is to avoid the errors in project design and implementation made in older projects.
In this perspective there is a great need for ongoing exchange of information and also cooperation (e.g. pooling of staff, training materials, and other resources) between the participatory projects in a country and outside. This would stimulate the multiplication of genuine beneficiary or rural people's participation which should become an essential part of the overall development strategy of each country (M. Perera, op. cit., 1988).
Given the need of a process approach a participatory project is to be conceived as a first phase of a longer process. Therefore it turns out usually necessary to prepare - as early as possible before a project terminates - a flexible plan (see Section 16.1) for the next phase. The data required for this exercise are to be obtained mainly from the project's monitoring and evaluation system (see Section 13) as well as from an evaluation study carried out by independent experts. A well-devised monitoring and evaluation system is the only way for a project to ensure firstly proper management, and secondly that its participatory trial-and-error efforts can be shared and provide sufficient evidence to outsiders that the project deserves support for its continuation, expansion and/or multiplication in other areas of a country.
With the information obtained it will be possible to improve the design of a successive project phase, that is e.g. to redefine objectives and to plan and coordinate better certain operations, in particular those required for wider and more active beneficiary participation.
For the preparation of an expansion or multiplication plan the following points appear important.
1) A first necessity is to engage in dialogues with governmental policy-, programme- and decision-makers at national and lower levels (see Section 4.2).
2) The plan should stress consolidation of the project's ongoing institution-building process that is of the existing beneficiary groups and organizations (federations) as well as of the service delivery agencies. Without these consolidation efforts the project may lose its quality during its expansion phase. By quality is primarily meant effective management, solid self-run groups engaging in viable economic and social activities, well-tailored training programmes, qualified and motivated participation agents and other staff, fruitful cooperation with the delivery system, and meaningful research as well as monitoring and evaluation. The risks of expansion are indeed dilution and distortion of the key features of a participatory project (M. Perera, op. cit., 1988).
3) The new areas to be covered by a project during its expansion phase should preferably be adjacent to its existing earlier ones. Such concentration facilitates project management and supervision, mutual information and cooperation between actual and potential (intended) beneficiaries as well as service agencies. In other words concentration leads to better spread effects and has eventually a wider and larger, because aggregated impact. The advantages are in part comparable to those of the village cluster approach (see Section 5.1). For the identification of new areas extensive action-oriented field research is needed (see Sections 5.1 and 12).
4) Expansion and multiplication implies more field staff, in particular participation agents. In order to maintain project quality the latter should be carefully selected and thoroughly trained. For this training it is very recommendable to engage selected qualified senior group promoters who performed well during the project's first phase, and, where needed, also similar fieldworkers from other participatory projects.
The expansion and more so the multiplication of a project's participatory efforts may require a sizeable number of participation agents. As usually only a relatively small number of exceptionally qualified and motivated group promoters are available in a country, it is a question of realistic planning to anticipate that mostly only average level grassroot workers can be recruited. Such staff can perform reasonably well if provided with solid training, attractive incentives and where possible with study and/or career prospects (see Section 10).
It is a sound policy - also to keep the (recurrent) costs of an expanded project as low as possible - to recruit as many group promoters as possible on secondment from public and private organizations such as extension agencies and NGOs including religious bodies, and preferably from those operating near the new project areas. This policy implies of course, the redeployment, relocation and re-training of part of the field staff of line agencies and/or other organizations concerned (see also Section 10.2).
In certain instances expansion or multiplication may grow out to such magnitude that a project must arrange timely internal cadres which are recruited from the action areas. For example, in some ongoing participation projects well-performing groups are encouraged to select each a few members for in-depth training not only to impart the know-how acquired to their peers, but also to help establish and guide new beneficiary groups. In other cases internal cadres are gradually formed by recruiting suitable locals on a (part-time) voluntary or semi-voluntary basis. These multiplying agents perform (part of) the functions of group promoters. The major advantages of such policies of forming internal cadres are that they reduce dependency on outside aid, are cost-effective and imply low recurrent costs.
5) Inter-group associations can play an important role in project expansion: they can assist in recruiting internal cadres, in the process of the formation and training of new groups and associations, in the dissemination of improved technology and in meeting other needs (see also Section 7.2).
6) For the establishment of fruitful linkages in the expansion phase it will be indispensable to obtain pragmatic information on existing groups and organizations of the intended beneficiaries in the new project areas and furthermore on the public and private agencies as well as relevant ongoing projects and programmes with which the expanded project could cooperate or coordinate efforts (see Sections 6.1, 6.2, 8, 16.3 and 16.4).
7) As transpires from the foregoing points, for the planning of an expanded project and particularly of its beneficiary participation component, various operations of the project identification and preparation stages indicated in Section 16, are to be carried out again. This needs, of course, to be done in modified ways: e.g. data collection can be more selective as considerable information is already available; furthermore socio-economic reconnaissance work, in particular field surveys, can be better organized as the experience at grassroot level gained by the project to be expanded, can be fully taken into account.