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

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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 2018. 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

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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

Waterlines Journal coverpage

Urban Community-Led Total Sanitation: A Potential Way Forward for Co-Producing Sanitation Services

Waterlines 35.4 (2016)

This article explores whether Community-led total sanitation (CLTS) can be used in peri-urban and urban areas to help co-produce sanitation facilities More details

IDS publications on international development research

Getting Beneath the Surface in Program Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation: Learning from Use of Participatory Action Research and Theory of Change in the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems

In this paper, we share learning from an agricultural research program that used participatory action research and theory of change to foster learning and support transformative change in aquatic agricultural systems. More details

Participatory Statistics to Measure Prevalence in Bonded Labour Hotspots in Tamil Nadu: Report of Preliminary Findings of the Baseline Study

The Freedom Fund, along with 11 partner organisations in Tamil Nadu, is focusing geographically on hotspots/locations where forms of bonded labour are more prevalent. It is working towards reducing trafficking, bonded labour and harmful child labour. More details

Mid-Term Review of the Freedom Fund Southern India Bonded Labour Hotspot

The Institute of Development Studies is carrying out a programme of research, learning and evaluation in relation to the Freedom Fund ‘hotspot’ in Southern India, a programme that seeks to reduce bonded labour in the cotton mills of Tamil Nadu. More details

Patterns and Dynamics of Bonded Labour and Child Labour in the Spinning Mills of Tamil Nadu: Findings From Life Story Analysis

This is a report of the analysis of multiple life stories collected across the Freedom Fund bonded labour hotspot in Tamil Nadu. They were analysed by NGO fieldwork staff and community representatives at the Collective Story Analysis workshop, 18-22 April 2016. Where appropriate, we add reinforcing material from the scoping study conducted 2-11 December 2015. More details

This is the font cover to IDS Working Paper 474, 'Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency: A Colombian Case Study'.

Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency: A Colombian Case Study

IDS Working Paper 474 (2016)

In a situation of longstanding and complex violent conflict in Buenaventura, Colombia, we used action research to explore with social activists what power, violence, citizenship and agency mean to them and how they experience and exercise citizen agency in relation to the violence. More details

This is the front cover to Innovation 5, 'Can Participation ‘fix’ Inequality?
Unpacking the Relationship Between the Economic and Political Citizenship'

Can Participation ‘fix’ Inequality? Unpacking the Relationship Between the Economic and Political Citizenship

Innovation Series 5 (2016)

This paper, based on a lecture given at the University of Sussex, UK, takes on the issue of growing inequality. More details

CDIPracticePaper_16

Using Participatory Statistics to Examine the Impact of Interventions to Eradicate Slavery: Lessons from the Field

CDI Practice Paper 16 (2016)

This CDI Practice Paper reflects on the use of participatory statistics to assess the impact of interventions to eradicate slavery and bonded labour. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Moving interdisciplinary science forward: integrating participatory modelling with mathematical modelling of zoonotic disease in Africa

Infectious Diseases of Poverty 17.5 (2016)

This review outlines the benefits of using multiple approaches to improve model design and facilitate multidisciplinary research into infectious diseases, as well as showing and proposing practical examples of effective integration. More details

CDIPracticePaper14_FrontCover

Balancing Inclusiveness, Rigour and Feasibility: Insights from Participatory Impact Evaluations in Ghana and Vietnam

CDI Practice Paper 14 (2016)

This paper by Adinda Van Hemelrijck and Irene Guijt explores how impact evaluation can live up to standards broader than statistical rigour in ways that address challenges of complexity and enable stakeholders to engage meaningfully. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC learning Event paper Transforming Governance: What Role for Technologies?

Transforming Governance: What Role for Technologies?

The technological innovations of the last two decades – cell phones, tablets, open data and social media – mean that governments and citizens can interact like never before. Around the world, in different contexts, citizens have fast-increasing access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) that enable them to monitor government performance and express their views on it in real time. More details

Patterns and Dynamics of Slavery and Bonded Labour in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh: Findings from Life Story Analysis

This report summarises the findings of the analysis of multiple life stories collected across the Freedom Fund slavery hotspot in North India by NGO representatives at the Collective Story Analysis workshop 13-16 May 2015. The authors outline the major findings and key system dynamics that emerged in the story analysis. More details

This is the cover to the book 'Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating sustainable change at scale.

Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating Sustainable Change at Scale

International development interventions often fail because development experts assume that our world is linear and straightforward when in reality it is complex, highly dynamic and unpredictable. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Innovations from the Field: Gender mainstreaming from the ground up for the World Food Programme

Synthesis report from Phase One (June 2013 – September 2014) of the WFP gender-mainstreaming programme. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Re-grounding Participatory Video within Community Emergence Towards Social Accountability

Community Development Journal 50.4 (2015)

This article frames participatory video predominately as a means for participatory representation. It draws on its use by acutely marginalized communities in Kenya and Palestine to research the local enablers and barriers of change, and explores how such processes can contribute to community-driven development. More details

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The New ‘MASVAW Men’: Strategies, Dynamics and Deepening Engagements. A Case Study of a Networked Approach to Challenging Patriarchy Across Institutions in Uttar Pradesh

IDS Evidence Report 143 (2015)

Uttar Pradesh is ranked second among Indian states in ‘crimes against women’, which includes rape, abduction, dowry-related deaths, mental and physical torture and sexual harassment (Government of Uttar Pradesh 2006: 130). More details

The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?

The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?

Book (2015)

Understanding and demonstrating the effectiveness of efforts to improve the lives of those living in poverty is an essential part of international development practice. More details

This is the cover to Citizen participation and accountability for sustainable development.

Citizen Participation and Accountability for Sustainable Development

IDS Report (2015)

This report articulates three strategies by which the poorest and most marginalised have attempted to ensure accountability from national and global policymakers to local people. More details