Participation is a right held by all people to engage in society and in the decisions that impact their lives. Participation is thus a political endeavour that challenges oppression and discrimination, in particular of the poorest and most marginalised people. Participatory processes enable people to see more clearly, and learn from the complexity that they are living and working amid. Through participation people can identify opportunities and strategies for action, and build solidarity to effect change.
Those whose interests are served by exclusion will seek to co-opt or pacify participation. This is not grounds for rejecting it, but for fighting harder for it, and understanding the fields of power within which meaningful participation for transformative social change lies.
Research by our Participation, Inclusion and Social cluster specializes in the development of participatory research methods with particular emphasis on systematic social exclusion facing women, people living in extreme poverty, people with disabilities, slaves and bonded labourers and others. This requires a systemic understanding of change, and an activist approach to research. We describe such an approach as participatory practice.
Through our work, we aim to:
- Conduct and support participatory practice that is facilitative and developmental, challenging the dominance of ‘external expert’ knowledge in mainstream research approaches.
- Use, develop and share knowledge on participatory methods, which are a key part of participatory practice. These include systemic action research, peer research, participatory mapping, collective analysis, participatory numbers, and visual and digital approaches. Our Participatory Methods website hosts a range of resources to generate ideas and action for inclusive development and social change.
- Employ a holistic learning based approach that is ‘responsive’, ‘reflective and ‘adaptive’, recognising that reality is constantly changing, and that participatory practice means continuous engagement.