Participation is a right held by all people to engage in society and in the decisions that impact their lives. Participation is thus a political endeavour that challenges oppression and discrimination, in particular of the poorest and most marginalised people. Participatory processes enable people to see more clearly, and learn from the complexity that they are living and working amid. Through participation people can identify opportunities and strategies for action, and build solidarity to effect change.

African village elders meet - Participation Research Cluster

Those whose interests are served by exclusion will seek to co-opt or pacify participation. This is not grounds for rejecting it, but for fighting harder for it, and understanding the fields of power within which meaningful participation for transformative social change lies.

Our work focuses on issues of systematic social exclusion facing women, people living in extreme poverty, people with disabilities, slaves and bonded labourers and others. This requires a systemic understanding of change, and an activist approach to research. We describe such an approach as participatory practice.

Through our work, we aim to:

  • Conduct and support participatory practice that is facilitative and developmental, challenging the dominance of 'external expert' knowledge in mainstream research approaches.
  • Use, develop and share knowledge on participatory methods, which are a key part of participatory practice. These include systemic action research, peer research, participatory mapping, collective analysis, participatory numbers, and visual and digital approaches.
  • Employ a holistic learning based approach that is 'responsive', 'reflective and 'adaptive', recognising that reality is constantly changing, and that participatory practice means continuous engagement.

Key contact

Photo of Danny Burns, IDS Participation, Power and Social Change Team leader

T: +44 (0)1273 915612

E: d.burns@ids.ac.uk

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Team Members

IDS staff or research student

E: a.vanhemelrijck@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Danny Burns, IDS Participation, Power and Social Change Team leader

T: +44 (0)1273 915612

E: d.burns@ids.ac.uk

More details
Photo of Elise Wach, Evaluation and Learning Advisor with the Impact and Learning Team

T: +44 (0)1273 915678

E: e.wach@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Erika Lopez-Franco, IDS Participation team Research Officer

E: e.lopezfranco2@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Jamie Myers, IDS Research Officer

T: +44 (0)1273 915874

E: j.myers2@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Jane Stevens, Communications Officer, Participation and Social Change Team

T: +44 (0)1273 915879

E: j.stevens@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Jo Howard, Research Fellow in the IDS Participation cluster

E: j.howard@ids.ac.uk

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IDS staff or research student

E: j.aked@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Naomi Vernon

T: +44 (0)1273 915684

E: n.vernon@ids.ac.uk

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IDS staff or research student

T: +44 (0)1273 915668

E: p.bongartz@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Richard Douglass, Administrative Support, Participation Power and Social Change

T: +44 (0)1273 915785

E: r.douglass@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Robert Chambers

T: +44 (0)1273 915723

E: r.chambers@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Tessa Lewin

T: +44 (0)1273 915736

E: t.lewin@ids.ac.uk

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Photo of Thea Shahrokh, Research Officer for the Participation and Cities research clusters

E: t.shahrokh@ids.ac.uk

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Strengthening and Broadening Community-Led Total Sanitation at Scale

The Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Hub works in collaboration with practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and others in the development, sanitation and related communities, and in governments, international agencies, civil society, research institutes and other organisations. The aim is support CLTS to go to scale sustainably and with quality, broadening its scope, accelerating its spread and adding to its momentum as a movement. More details

Final External Review of the Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme

This independent external review aimed to determine the extent to which the three year Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme (CCDRP) in Nepal, India, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya, has met its expected impact, outcome and outputs. More details

Participate: Knowledge from the margins for post-2015

Ensuring that the most vulnerable and marginalised communities have the opportunity to shape post-2015 policymaking More details

Valuing Volunteering

The project aims to expand our knowledge of the specific attributes of volunteering as a development mechanism and the unique ways in which volunteering impacts on poverty. More details

Participation Resource Centre

The Participation Resource Centre holds the combined collections of IDS and the International Institute for Environment and Development. More details

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Minds set in Washington DC

30 Apr 2015
By Robert Chambers

Launch of Northern India Hotspot Evaluation

20 Mar 2015
By Ginny Baumann

An Open Letter in response to the World Development Report 2015

18 Mar 2015
By Robert Chambers, Petra Bongartz
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