Immersions for Aid Practitioners

Senior staff in aid agencies are involved in daily decisions about policy and practice which have direct impact on the lives of poor people. But in a rapidly changing world, how can they be sure that they are basing those decisions on up-to-date information about what people living in poverty want and would consider most helpful?

Immersions are a participatory approach to learning, whereby staff from policy institutions and donor agencies spend a few days living and working with host families in a poor community. This enables them to engage in critical self-reflection both on their own and in a facilitated group and can bring long-term benefits to the practice of development.

The experience increases motivation and commitment and the personal contact ensures that poor people’s voices and perspectives are heard and integrated into new policy approaches and practice at senior level.

As part of its programme on power, participation and social change, IDS hosted a workshop in December 2003 to bring together the experiences of those working within the international aid system to promote immersions. Since then IDS has been working with Action Aid to further develop immersions as a practical training method for international aid bureaucrats. The UK Department for International Development and Sida are among the aid agencies that are increasingly recognising the importance of immersions and encouraging their staff to take part in them.

Key contact

Photo of Robert Chambers

T: +44 (0)1273 915723


More details

Immersions for Policy and Personal Change

IDS Policy Briefing 22 (2004)
Eyben, R.

Learning from Poor People's Lives: Immersions

13 (2004)
Irvine, R., Chambers, R. and Eyben, R

Partner organisations

Project Dates:
February 2000 - November 2010
Project Status:
Research Themes / Programmes:
Participatory methodologies