Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

The Typology Of Participation (Adapted from Pretty et, al., 1994)

1) Passive Engagement, i.e., people told what to do.

2) Informative Engagement, i.e., people simply answer questions.

3) Consultative Engagement, i.e., people consulted by external agents but decision-making power remains with agents.

4) Bought Engagement, i.e., people participate in return for incentives (e.g., cash, food).

5) Functional Engagement, i.e., people have a say but only after major decisions have already been made by external agents.

6) Interactive Engagement, i.e., people engage in joint analysis and take control over local decisions.

7) Pro-Active Self-mobilization, i.e., people take control and start action independent of external agents.

Thus, the seven levels of engagement range from:

Passive Engagement i.e., Coercion, Collusion (Goal-seeking), at one extreme, to Pro-Active Engagement i.e., Inspirational/Purposeful (Ideal-seeking) at the other.

The importance of qualifying the type of engagement is obvious. Given the different shades of engagement, it cannot be expected that all forms of engagement will produce the same outcomes.

A key aspect of inspirational/purposeful systems is their ability ( given the right environment) to go the higher level of purposefulness, i.e., to be ideal-seeking.

To the extent that purposeful behaviour and engagement do exist, they are most routinely manifest in terms of less than ideal-seeking behaviour (e.g., goal-seeking or multi-goal-seeking behaviour) exemplified in one of Pretty’s first four classifications of engagement (i.e., passive, informative, consultative, and bought engagement) or in one of Ackoff and Emery’s first six functional types of systems.

This means that, in practice, individual behaviour is still considered instrumental to the organization instead of the organization being instrumental to the individual (i.e., a means towards an end and not as an end in itself).

This ‘instrumental’ view of individual behaviour reinforces the dominant-hierarchy approach in organizational redesigns or re-engineering initiatives and allows for the prevalence of variety-reducing structures (i.e., Bureaucracies).

High long-term productivity and efficiency can only be possible when people are given the power to make decisions and their knowledge is valued (i.e., people exhibiting the desire for and ability to pursue an ideal).

Ultimately, it boils down to not only bringing the personal goals and values of participants together with the values and goals of the organization, but even more important, to align them with the fundamental purpose of the organization, namely, its Mission and Vision.

Thus, creating a truly sustainable project driven by ideal-seeking participants in search of their Higher Purpose!