Participatory methodologies

IDS has a long history in the use, spread and critique of participatory methodologies. We believe that participatory practice is crucial to sustainable and people-centred development. It challenges a linear approach to development that tends to prioritise the needs of institutions and governments and is led by [self-identified and often external] experts, and promotes one that is inclusive, community-led, understands issues of power and recognises the complexities, uniqueness and evolving nature of people's realities.

Since their emergence in the 1970s and 1980s, these methods have enabled communities to research their own realities and hence to own, shape and drive development processes themselves to bring about social change. This knowledge from the ground up has in turn helped inform institutional programmes and influenced policy at many levels. As participatory practice has become more widely accepted and adopted in the development world, these methodologies are seen as critical tools to creating and understanding transformative change.

At IDS, we research, promote and engage with participatory methodologies in many ways and at many levels, from supporting local communities to have a voice to working with international organisations to develop policy. 

These include:

Participatory Methodologies Website

The Participatory Methodologies website provides a wealth of freely accessible resources to generate ideas and action for inclusive development and social change. On the Resources page, you can search the Participation Resource Centre database, which contains details of around 5,000 documents about Participatory Methods. Where resources are not available electronically, you can contact Jane Stevens for a scan or photo-copy of the resource you need.

Participatory Methodologies: short courses

IDS runs a variety of short courses that include a growing number based on participatory approaches and practice.

  • Using Participatory Action Research: This five day course usually runs in January and has been well received by participants. It is designed to provide participants with the conceptual and practical tools to design and carry out PAR in their own organizations and with their partners. It will also provide them with a practical understanding of how to achieve rigour using participatory methods.

"This is one of the most inspiring, mind-opening courses I have been in!" (2016 Participant)

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IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Alex Shankland, IDS Research Fellow More details

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Catherine Setchell, IDS Participate Research Communications Manager More details

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

IDS staff or research student More details

Honorary Associate Ted Jackson More details

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

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Jackie Shaw, Research Fellow in the Participation research cluster More details

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Jamie Myers, IDS Research Officer More details

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

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

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of John Gaventa More details

Katy Oswald photo More details

Marina Apgar photo More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

Photo of Marjoke Oosterom, Post Doctoral Researcher with the Participation, Power and Social Change research team More details

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A Demonstration Project: How Active Data Can be Shaped and Provide Strong Evidence-Based Programming

In an attempt to make better use of what is available, IDS is leading on a pilot programme which examines sets of participatory and systemic data with a view to increase understanding of how data is collected, analysed and shared in development programming. More details

Accountability at Local Level in Fragile Contexts

This collaborative project between IDS and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (HSI) was designed to contribute to learning on accountability initiatives in fragile contexts by exploring the dynamics and enabling factors within three ongoing accountability projects. More details

Building Resilience and Inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa through Social Learning around Climate Risks

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to droughts, floods and other climate-related stressors and shocks. This research aims to contribute to greater understanding of the underlying drivers of risk, while also identifying pathways to improve the impact that climatic information may have on building resilience through bridging the 'usability gap'. More details

Building Sustainable Inclusion: From Intersecting Inequalities to Accountable Relationships

This project focuses on the need to consider and address intersecting inequalities – the spatial, economic and identity-based drivers of poverty and inequality - if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be successful. More details

Citizens' Media and Participatory Communication

A scoping study of the role and potential of participatory communication practices across a diverse spectrum of research programmes. More details

Community Based Peace Processes in Myanmar

Since 2013 Danny Burns has been working with Stephen Gray and Josephine Roos on systemic approaches to peace in Northern Myanmar. The work is rooted in community perspectives on the issues that face local people in Kachin and Northern Shan State. More details

Critical Research Social Justice and International Aid

Seminar series for inter-disciplinary discussions on the relationship between research, aid and social justice More details

Gender mainstreaming from the ground up for the World Food Programme

A participatory action-learning and knowledge sharing programme to improve WFPs gender-mainstreaming practices. More details

Linking Participation and Economic Advancement

We aim to support the Open Society Foundation in the strategic development of its Economic Advancement Programme. More details

Participate: Participatory Monitoring and Accountability

The Participatory Monitoring and Accountability (PMA) programme marks a new phase of the Participate initiative. It aims to foster and support PMA learning processes that enable citizen participation for accountability to be embedded in development policy and practice. 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

Participatory Approaches to Quality Assurance

This collaboration between IDS and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) aims to bring appropriate participatory methods into quality assurance within SDC. It will also bring new levels of rigour to the principles of participation, poverty orientation and empowerment in the work of SDC and its partners. More details

Pathways of Women's Empowerment Research Programme Consortium

Pathways is a research and communication programme which seeks to discover where women are achieving real gains despite or because of policy and practice. It looks at how this has happened, and aims to make these pathways visible so that we can build on these revealed successes. More details

Poverty, Politics, and Participatory Methodologies in SDC

This Collaboration with the Quality Assurance (QA) Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is now in its second phase, running until December 2017. The aim of the program is to improve the quality and effectiveness of SDC processes and operations focused on poverty. More details

Programme Partnership between Irish Aid and IDS on Hunger Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation

Four years on from Irish Aid's landmark Hunger Task Force Report, hunger reduction remains an enormous challenge. This will become more difficult in the context of resource scarcity, climate change, and an increased demand for food in the emerging economies. More details

Reflective Practice and Organisational Learning and Change

Deepening individual and collective self-awareness of how our knowledge and values shape our relationships with others More details

Sharing Lessons, Improving Practice: Maximising the Potential of Community-Led Total Sanitation

CLTS is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). More details

The Impacts of the Global Economic Downturn on Communities and Poverty in the UK

Economic shocks in the form of record rises in food and fuel prices followed by financial crisis and recession have driven home the significance of global economic interdependence for people around the world. These economic crises have confirmed a sense of global connectedness at a time of high concern about the impacts of climate change, epidemics, and conflict. More details

The Social Impacts of Crisis

How have people and communities experienced recent global economic shocks? In early 2009, the Social Impacts of Crisis project started work in 12 community 'listening posts' in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Yemen and Zambia to answer this question. More details

Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems

This project will examine potential pathways for transitioning to more sustainable food systems in order to contribute to improved ecological, economic, social and nutritional outcomes. More details

View all Research Theme's publications

Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.


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Valuing Agroecological Farmers: What Can We Learn From Alternative Economic Approaches to Ensure the Contribution of Agroecological Farmers is Valued Appropriately? Findings From Participatory Research

This paper looks at the potential usefulness of triple bottom line accounting, and also explores other approaches, in financial accounting, for ecological and social outcomes and the effects of different farming methods. It then provides details of the presentations given by three witnesses and a summary of the outcomes of the farmer panel deliberation. More details

Why Access to Land is Vital for Sustainable, Healthy and Fair Food Systems: Strategies for Increasing Access to Land for Agroecological Farming

In partnership between the Institute of Development Studies and the Land Workers’ Alliance, research has been undertaken to identify strategies for increasing access to land for agroecological production, in order to contribute to a transition towards sustainable – or even regenerative – food systems in the UK. This briefing summarises these strategies. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Research Report Do more empowered citizens make more accountable states? Power and legitimacy in legal empowerment initiatives in Kenya and South Africa, Francesca Feruglio

Do more empowered citizens make more accountable states? Power and legitimacy in legal empowerment initiatives in Kenya and South Africa

MAVC Research Report (2017)

Many marginalised groups face difficulties in accessing essential services, such as housing, health care and water – even though their rights to these services are enshrined in international and often in national laws. Civil society organisations and lawyers in several countries are using legal channels to address this, and ensure that citizens are able to claim services to which they are legally entitled. More details

This is the front cover to the book, 'Can We Know Better?: Reflections for Development'.

Can We Know Better?: Reflections for Development

This book is intended for all who are committed to human wellbeing and who want to make our world fairer, safer and more fulfilling for everyone, especially those who are ‘last’. It argues that to do better we need to know better. It provides evidence that what we believe we know in international development is often distorted or unbalanced by errors, myths, biases and blind spots. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Research Report Pathways to Accountability from the Margins: Reflections of Participatory Video Practices

Pathways to Accountability from the Margins: Reflections on Participatory Video Practice

Two of the central challenges in building accountability for marginalised people are how to reach and meaningfully involve the most excluded, and how to establish the kinds of relationships that mean they can achieve, influence and expect government responsiveness. This report explores asks how participatory video can be adapted and strengthened inclusively engage citizens and foster responses from decision-makers. More details

IDS publications on international development research

A New Professionalism for Agricultural Research for Development

International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (2017)
IDS publications on international development research

Deepening and Scaling Participatory Research

European Journal of Operational Research (2017)
Wp487_FrontCover

Innovative Methods for Research on Social and Political Action in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings

IDS Working Paper 487 (2017)

Fragile and conflict-affected settings present particular challenges for researchers seeking to study the effect of social and political action (SPA). These challenges are not simply due to prevalent violence and conflict, but contexts of insecurity can restrict the flow of information, key actors can be hard to identify, and if information can be found, vital pieces of the picture may be missing. More details

Image of Participate Policy Brief Issue 04

Participatory Accountability for the SDGs: Beyond Social Accountability

People who are most marginalised need to participate in the monitoring and accountability of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if the ‘leave no-one behind’ ambition is to be met. Participatory accountability is necessary for their realities to be understood and for their voices to be heard. More details

Image of cover of Participate Policy Brief Issue 03

Using Knowledge from the Margins to Meet the SDGs: The Real Data Revolution

Participate Policy Briefing 3 (2017)

As efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gain momentum, we need to consider the inclusiveness of the data revolution. Knowledge from people living on the margins of society needs to be recognized, valued and embedded in the data to make visible the complex realities of their lives. More details

Participatory Statistics to Measure Prevalence in Bonded Labour Hotspots in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar: Report of Preliminary Findings of the Baseline Study

The Institute of Development Studies has been carrying out a programme of research, learning and evaluation in relation to the Freedom Fund ‘hotspot’ in northern India, a project that seeks to reduce bonded labour in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. More details

Front cover of Learning Report

Participatory Monitoring and Accountability and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Learning Report of the Participate Network

Accountability describes the rights and responsibilities that exist between people and the institutions that affect their lives, including government, civil society and the private sector. This report is intended as a learning document, both to record key lessons and important insights from Participate’s Participatory Monitoring and Accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) work, and to prompt and encourage future learning and inquiry for organisations working for transformation and social justice. More details

Thi is the front cover of MAVC Practice Paper Faith, Empowerment,  Church and Community Mobilisation Advocacy Insights from Tearfund’s Partner in Uganda

Faith, Empowerment, Church and Community Mobilisation Advocacy: Insights from Tearfund’s Partner in Uganda

Tearfund, a Christian faith-based international non-governmental organisation, envisions and empowers local churches in over 50 countries. For more than 15 years, Tearfund has supported local churches to mobilise communities through a process called Church and Community Mobilisation (CCM). More details

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Report on the Deliberative Panel of the Market-based Solutions for the Extreme Poor Programme

This report describes the discussions held by a deliberative panel on disability in Uganda. The panel formed part of a wider research project on ‘market-based solutions for the extreme poor’ funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Identifying Opportunities to Improve Governance of Aquatic Agricultural Systems through Participatory Action Research

Ecology and Society 22.1 (2017)

Challenges of governance often constitute critical obstacles to efforts to equitably improve livelihoods in social-ecological systems. Yet often, these challenges go unspoken, or are viewed as fixed parts of the context, beyond the scope of influence of agricultural, development, or natural resource management initiatives. More details

What Can Promote Access to Land for Agroecological Farming in the UK? Findings from Participatory Research and Deliberation as part of the Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems Project

Access to land has long been a key barrier to new entrants to farming and has become more difficult in the last decade or so. In order to address these land access challenges, the panel discussed the potentials of both (a) working within the existing system (i.e. navigating existing policies, regulations and institutions), and (b) working to change the system (i.e. revising or introducing new policies, regulations and institutions). More details

IDS publications on international development research

Emergent Ethics in Participatory Video: Negotiating the Inherent Tension as Group Processes Evolve

Area 48.4 (2016)

Community practitioner-researchers are enthusiastic about participatory video's potential in opening space for new relational dynamics to evolve across difference, yet in practice this involves much negotiation and often conflicting agendas. This paper reflects on the outcomes of research into the approach of Real Time, a UK-based participatory video project provider. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Practice Paper Crowdsourcing Citizen Feedback on District Development in Ghana Using Interactive Voice Response Surveys

Crowdsourcing Citizen Feedback on District Development in Ghana Using Interactive Voice Response Surveys

This practice paper describes research carried out by VOTO Mobile, a Ghanaian tech company and social enterprise, and CDD-Ghana, a non-profit organisation focusing on good governance. More details

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