Proactive participation among stakeholders, be it within a community or an organisation, enables the exchange of ideas and opinions, information sharing and interpersonal rapport that is grounded in mutual respect and shared responsibilities, and working together towards common and mutual objective Cooperation. Getting the participation of the poor requires strengthening the organizational and financial capacities of the poor so that they can act for themselves. The constructive dialogue between civil society and local authorities is an essential prerequisite for a sustained and participated development.
Participation is a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions and resources which affect them. Participation in political science is an umbrella term including different means for the public to directly participate in political, economical or management decisions. The term is also used in management theory (as in "Participatory management") to denote a style of management that calls for a high level of participation of workers and supervisors in decisions that affect their work.
Despite some clear differences in methodology, most participatory approaches share some common core principles:
- Respect for the individual as an adult with experience, ideas and concerns of his/her own. Substantive content is not imposed on adults. Instead opportunities are provided to tap their own rich experience and to identify issues and situations requiring further analysis. Thus, participants are part of a process in which, in lieu of an instructor, there is a facilitator who encourages group participation and who is also learning from the process. The facilitator does not lecture but instead involves participants in inclusive and engaging tasks such as defining their own ‘ground rules’ on attendance and participation in the sessions.
- Ensuring an enabling environment in which the participants feel comfortable in expressing their ideas and in supporting or challenging each other if they so wish. This is particularly important in an area such as HIV/AIDS where sensitive issues are likely to emerge concerning sex and sexuality, stigma, gender and power relations, blame and hostility, family crisis and pain. To create and maintain this type of enabling environment, the facilitator tries to minimise hierarchical relationships, for example, by positioning tables and chairs within the working rooms in such a way as to ensure that participants can move around freely and form subgroups of different sizes.
- Use of non-conventional discussion media: pictures, cut out figures, "chits", props or other aids which the participants themselves can manipulate, sort out, prioritize, modify and interpret as they wish. This is another means of equalizing communication opportunities and helping to uncover talents within the group that might otherwise not be disclosed in a more formally stratified setting. Such tools potentially give all members of the group the opportunity to be involved in some way since it takes many different talents, for example, to create a mural, take part in a role play, or actively engage in group problem-solving. The aids also help to enliven the session, providing scope for creativity, analysis, planning and humour.
In other sections of this handbook ⇒ The participatory approach
On Wikipedia ⇒ Participatory development