When preparing a proposal, maybe you have heard the term participatory methods. Maybe your donor even requires you to show that you use participatory methods in your project planning. But what does this term actually mean, and why would a donor want you to use them? In this article we will give you an introduction to the concept.
Participatory Methods in the development field are approaches that include more voices into planning, implementation, and evaluation of development work. With enhanced participation from project partners, the hope is that projects become more widely accepted by the communities they operate in. This increases the likelihood of successful projects. Participatory methods were developed as tools to make it easier to include the voices of all concerned groups -including marginalized groups- into planning, implementation, and evaluation.
Participatory methods include:
- Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA)
- Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)
- Community Mapping
- Focus Group Discussions
- Gender Role Analysis
Why is enhanced participation important for the success of your project?
In the 1950s, when development cooperation started, most projects took a top-down approach. Beneficiaries in recipient countries were not seen as partners or peoples with their own knowledge and resources. They were seen as passive recipients of aid and gifts. When many of these early projects failed, later studies pointed to the lack of participation from all stakeholders as a key factor. Still, it was not until the 1970s that participatory methods began being developed and implemented.
Participation of all stakeholders in all stages of the project has a positive impact on the results. All people feel ownership of the project, and thus take responsibility for it. Furthermore, if all concerned partners are included, all resources can be fully utilized. Local knowledge plays a key role in implementing successful projects that use resources efficiently.
So when you take all this into account, it is no wonder that your potential donors want to see you using participatory methods. It is important though that your organization internalizes these concepts as well. You need to clearly understand the benefits of participation with your partners. If it is only a lip service to please your donor, none of the positive impacts will materialize for your project in the long term.