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

View all Research Theme's publications

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IDS publications on international development research

Participatory Methods Website

The participatorymethods.org website provides resources on a range of methods for inclusive social development. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Facilitating Cultural Transitions and Change

Facilitating cultural transitions and change provides a practical approach for facilitators needing to enhance their skills when working with participants in transition from a diverse range of multicultural backgrounds. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Decentralisation and Social Cohesion in Religiously Heterogeneous Societies in Transition: A Case Study from Egypt

This paper explores the linkages between decentralisation and social cohesion within communities of differing religious backgrounds. It builds on the case of post-Mubarak Egypt, where an increased but informal devolution of power to manage relations between the majority Muslim and minority Christian populations has not alleviated community tensions. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Outcome Measurement in Local Governance Programmes: A Power Dimension

This paper explores how outcome measurement is understood in several SDC local governance programmes, reviewed in a HELVETAS Learning Project. This critical review assesses the extent to which power issues are recognised, understood and tracked within such programmes and suggests ways to enhance this. More details

This is the image for the Portuguese summary of IDS Working paper 420, 'Melhorando a Prestação
de Contas através dos Conselhos Locais em Moçambique'.

Melhorando a Prestação de Contas através dos Conselhos Locais em Moçambique

IDS Research Summary of IDS Working Paper 420 (2013)

Apesar de limitada evidência empírica, a prestação de contas é tida como meio para o empoderamento, governação democrática, e eficácia do desenvolvimento. More details

Accountability at the Local Level in Fragile Contexts: Nepal Case Study

IDS Working Paper 421 (2013)

This paper presents the Nepal case study from a research project on accountability carried out in three countries. More details

Local Accountabilities in Fragile Contexts: Experiences from Nepal, Bangladesh and Mozambique

IDS Working Paper 422 (2013)

Accountability is one of the five governance principles HELVETAS believes to be the 'core structure' of governance in international cooperation: efficiency, non-discrimination, transparency, participation, and accountability. More details

Advancing Accountability through Conselhos Consultivos in Mozambique: PROGOAS Case Study

IDS Working Paper 420 (2013)

In recent years accountability has become a buzzword in the development agenda. Even though evidence of its impact remains weak, the underlying assumption is that accountability will result in empowerment, improved quality of democratic governance, and development effectiveness. More details

Accountability at the Local Level in Fragile Contexts: Bangladesh Case Study

IDS Working Paper 419 (2013)

This paper, part of an IDS and Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation research project, is about the promotion of accountability at the local level in Bangladesh. More details

This is the image for the book, 'Who Counts? The Power of Participatory Statistics'.

Who Counts? The Power of Participatory Statistics

Local people can generate their own numbers – and the statistics that result are powerful for themselves and can influence policy. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Uncovering the Politics of 'Evidence' and 'Results'. A Framing Paper for Development Practitioners

Hard evidence, rigorous data, tangible results, value for money – all are tantalising terms promising clarity for the international development sector. Yet, behind these terms lie definitional tussles, vested interests and contested world views that this background paper to the Politics of Evidence Conference aims to make explicit and question. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Recommendations and Key Findings for the Post-2015 Global Development Framework

This document outlines key recommendations based on the findings of the research with people living in greatest poverty and those who are most marginalised. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Citizen-led Accountability: Recommendations and Key Research Findings for the Post-2015 Agenda

This document outlines key recommendation for citizen-led accountability in the post-2015 framework. More details

This is the cover for Participate publication, 'What Matters Most?'.

What Matters Most? Evidence from 84 Participatory Studies with Those Living with Extreme Poverty and Marginalisation

This Participate report draws on the experiences and views of people living in extreme poverty and marginalisation in 107 countries. More details

IDS publications on international development research

People's Experiences of Living in Poverty: Early Findings for High Level Panel Deliberations

This document presents the early findings of Participate's major synthesis of recent participatory research and sets out eight key messages from those who are living in poverty and who are most marginalised. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Participate Global Participatory Research Network Map

This map outlines the geographic distribution of the Participate global participatory research network, the work of the organisations and their specific research within Participate. More details

IDS publications on international development research

CLTS in Africa: Trajectories, Challenges and Moving to Scale

This book chapter looks at the progress and maturing of Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in Africa. It introduces innovations and adaptations, poses questions and challenges and suggests possible ways forward as CLTS goes to scale on the continent. More details