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

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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

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Portrait image of Grace Lyn Higdon 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

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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

Capitalisation of SDC Experiences in Roma Social Inclusion

Jo Howard is working with SDC to capitalise experiences in Roma social inclusion by drawing broad conclusions from past SDC experiences in promoting Roma social inclusion and making them easily accessible for decision makers. Furthermore, she will produce a synthesis paper with main findings and lessons from the Roma inclusion seminar series. 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

In this project, IDS will draw upon and expand its rich experience at the forefront of thinking about participation in development, and our emerging work at the intersection of participation and markets. We will co-create along with the Economic Advancement Program (EAP) at the Open Society Foundations (OSF), a deeper understanding of participation in economic advancement in general, as well as how EAP can bring participatory approaches into its own practice. 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

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

PROKAS Participatory Action Research

In this consultancy, Danny Burns has been commissioned by the British Council to ensure high quality in the Participatory Action Research processes being applied by PROKAS and to ensure that academia is able to feed into and learn from the PROKAS approach for bringing about policy change. 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.


This is the cover for IDS Bulletin 41.3

Reflecting Collectively on Capacities for Change

IDS Bulletin 41.3 (2010)

'Capacity development' implies a promise of growing self-reliance, national ownership and sustainability, yet practice seems consistently to fall short of this emancipatory promise. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Child-friendly participatory research techniques for community based adaptation and disaster risk reduction

Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) 60.14 (2009)

Field-based action research on community-based adaptation to climate change needs to engage with all different sections of communities. Children form a significant group that is often overlooked by research and practice at community level, in part because of a lack of appropriate action research tools. In this short piece, we describe some tools for child-friendly participatory research that were used in the Philippines. More details

Non-IDS publication

Raising Voice - Securing a Livelihood: Summary Paper

This full-colour summary paper of the recent study into pastoralist livelihoods in Ethiopia discusses the role of diverse voices in developing secure livelihoods in pastoralist areas of Ethiopia. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Puff Adder, the Fire, the Spear, the Peace

Reporting from the Peace Gathering that took place in Maikona, Chalbi District in Kenya in July 2009, this publication documents the discussions held between the Borana and Gabra communities from Ethiopia and Kenya around peace, and how to maintain it. More details

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing

Beyond Subsidies – Triggering a Revolution in Rural Sanitation

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 10 (2009)

This In Focus Policy Briefing asks how can we maximise the huge potential for transforming rural sanitation that this approach offers? What has worked? What hinders progress? What should be done? More details

IDS publications on international development research

Citzens' Media and Communication

Development in Practice 19.4 & 5 (2009)

Citizens' media and communication are still poorly understood in the mainstream of development policy and practice – and are prone to simplistic forms of implementation, because of the lack of a coherent grasp of the social, cultural, and political processes that make them transformative. More details

IDS publications on international development research

School Exclusion as Social Exclusion

Working Paper 148 (2009)

This working paper by Naomi Hossain is part of the Government of Chronic Poverty Series from the Chronic Poverty Research Centre, Manchester. More details

This is the cover of the Sexuality and Development Workshop Report,

Sexuality and the Development Industry Workshop Report

This report explores the complex linkages between sexuality and the development industry. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Accounts of Crisis: Poor People's Experiences of the Food, Fuel and Financial Crises in Five Countries

Report on a pilot study in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya and Zambia, January-March 2009 More details

IDS publications on international development research

Collecting Stories of Empowerment

A framework document for the DAC POVNET Task Team on Empowerment. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Sexuality and Development

Development 52.1 (2009)
IDS Working Paper

Rude Accountability in the Unreformed State: Informal Pressures on Frontline Bureaucrats in Bangladesh

IDS Working Paper 319 (2009)

‘Rude’ forms of accountability are central to how poor people negotiate their entitlements on the frontline of service delivery in Bangladesh. More details

IDS Practice Paper

Changing the World by Changing Ourselves: Reflections from a Bunch of BINGOs

IDS Practice Paper 3 (2009)

This Practice Paper aims to contribute to ongoing reflections and debates taking place among aid practitioners about if, and how, big international NGOs (BINGOs) can be more effective agents of ‘progressive social change'. More details

IDS Research Summary

Advocacy in the age of authoritarianism: adjustments of all sorts

IDS Research Summary of IDS Working Paper 337 (2009)

This paper examines the US government's support for introducing advocacy amongst Egyptian NGOs, and the inherent tensions for donors backing a politicised form of development that clashes with their foreign policy. More details

Bulletin 40.1 cover image

Intergenerational Transmissions: Cultivating Agency?

IDS Bulletin 40.1 (2009)

This IDS Bulletin reflects, as the first in the 40th anniversary volume, on some of the core areas of research and policy advocacy that are central to IDS’ work: inequalities, poverty, power, social protection, transformational education, HIV/AIDS, gender and climate change. More details