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

Photo of Alex Shankland, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Alex Shankland, IDS Research Fellow More details

IDS staff or research student More details

IDS staff or research student 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

Photo of Gioel Gioacchino More details

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 Jo Howard, Research Fellow in the IDS Participation cluster More details

IDS staff or research student More details

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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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View all Research Theme's publications

Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.


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IDS publications on international development research

Ethical and Methodological Challenges in Large Qualitative Participatory Studies

Participatory research studies utilizing qualitative data drawn from large, diverse samples appear increasingly common in the social sciences, particularly in international development. More details

State of the Art on Use of Theory of Change in the Development Sector

The purpose of this briefing note is to add to SDC’s understanding of Theory of Change (ToC), drawing on the literature and practice to sketch out the current state of the art approach. This involves expanding on ToC beyond SDC’s current practice of using Impact Hypotheses (IH) to bridge it to operational practice and use ToC more explicitly in the project/programme cycle management (PCM) processes. More details

CDI_PP19_Cover

Getting the Most Out of Participatory Impact Assessment: Reflections from a Multi-Country Cash Transfer Impact Assessment

CDI Practice Paper 19 (2018)

Mixed methods approaches are widely used in impact evaluations, but all too often a ‘methodological gap’ emerges between broad, large-scale surveys and in-depth, small-scale qualitative investigation that can be difficult to bridge. More details

Opportunities for Using Complexity-Aware Approaches to Theory of Change

The purpose of this briefing note is to review opportunities for using complexity aware approaches to Theory of Change (ToC) to inform the SDC approach. It provides an overview of complexity-aware approaches and then focuses on demonstrating how complexity thinking can support programming by building on the frameworks currently being used in the project/programme cycle management (PCM) processes. It is aimed at SDC staff, in particular Programme Officers and staff of partner organisations involved in the management of SDC interventions. More details

Equity and Inclusion in Health Programming

Equity and inclusion are key issues for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), given its strong commitment to the Agenda 2030 principle of “leaving no one behind” and to achieving Universal Health Coverage. However, efforts to guarantee equity and inclusion face not only technical and material challenges but also social and political ones, especially in relation to governance and accountability. More details

Participation in Economic Decision-Making: A Primer

This primer is designed to help programmes that aim to build participation into economic decision-making to better understand what ‘participation’ means. More details

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Representation and Inclusion in School Councils in Mozambique

IDS Research Report 84 (2018)

This study was conducted as part of the Citizen Engagement Programme (Programa Cidadania e Participação (CEP)) in Mozambique – an empowerment and social accountability initiative to improve the quality of education and health services by increasing citizens’ influence on the management of schools and health units, the formulation of education and health policies, and the provision of education and health services. More details

Valuing Agroecological Farmers: What Can We Learn From Alternative Economic Approaches to Ensure the Contribution of Agroecological Farmers is Valued Appropriately? Findings From Participatory Research

This paper looks at the potential usefulness of triple bottom line accounting, and also explores other approaches, in financial accounting, for ecological and social outcomes and the effects of different farming methods. It then provides details of the presentations given by three witnesses and a summary of the outcomes of the farmer panel deliberation. More details

Why Access to Land is Vital for Sustainable, Healthy and Fair Food Systems: Strategies for Increasing Access to Land for Agroecological Farming

In partnership between the Institute of Development Studies and the Land Workers’ Alliance, research has been undertaken to identify strategies for increasing access to land for agroecological production, in order to contribute to a transition towards sustainable – or even regenerative – food systems in the UK. This briefing summarises these strategies. More details

Valuing Agroecological Farmers: findings from participatory research on alternative economic approaches to support agroecology in the UK

This paper looks at the potential usefulness of triple bottom line accounting, and also explores other approaches, in financial accounting, for ecological and social outcomes and the effects of different farming methods. It then provides details of the presentations given by three witnesses and a summary of the outcomes of the farmer panel deliberation. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Patterns and dynamics of bonded labour, child labour and child marriage in the Nepali Eastern Terai: Findings from life story analysis

This is a report of the analysis of multiple life stories collected across the Freedom Fund slavery and bonded labour hotspot in the Eastern Terai of Nepal. Life stories were analysed by NGO fieldwork staff and community representatives at the Collective Story Analysis workshop held 5-9th March 2017. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Research Report Do more empowered citizens make more accountable states? Power and legitimacy in legal empowerment initiatives in Kenya and South Africa, Francesca Feruglio

Do more empowered citizens make more accountable states? Power and legitimacy in legal empowerment initiatives in Kenya and South Africa

MAVC Research Report (2017)

Many marginalised groups face difficulties in accessing essential services, such as housing, health care and water – even though their rights to these services are enshrined in international and often in national laws. Civil society organisations and lawyers in several countries are using legal channels to address this, and ensure that citizens are able to claim services to which they are legally entitled. More details

This is the front cover to the book, 'Can We Know Better?: Reflections for Development'.

Can We Know Better?: Reflections for Development

This book is intended for all who are committed to human wellbeing and who want to make our world fairer, safer and more fulfilling for everyone, especially those who are ‘last’. It argues that to do better we need to know better. It provides evidence that what we believe we know in international development is often distorted or unbalanced by errors, myths, biases and blind spots. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Experiences of Using a Participatory Action Research Approach to Strengthen District Local Capacity in Eastern Uganda

To achieve a sustained improvement in health outcomes, the way health interventions are designed and implemented is critical. A participatory action research approach (PAR) is applauded for building local capacity such as health management, thereby increasing the chances of sustaining health interventions. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC Research Report Pathways to Accountability from the Margins: Reflections of Participatory Video Practices

Pathways to Accountability from the Margins: Reflections on Participatory Video Practice

Two of the central challenges in building accountability for marginalised people are how to reach and meaningfully involve the most excluded, and how to establish the kinds of relationships that mean they can achieve, influence and expect government responsiveness. This report explores asks how participatory video can be adapted and strengthened inclusively engage citizens and foster responses from decision-makers. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Deepening and Scaling Participatory Research

European Journal of Operational Research (2017)
IDS publications on international development research

Where Does the Research Knowledge Lie in Participatory Visual Processes?

Visual Methodologies Journal (2017)

Over recent decades there has been a rapid expansion in the use of participatory visual methods to unearth neglected perspectives on complex issues. As example, participatory video can enable participants to show and tell, and connect marginalised communities with external audiences. More details

IDS publications on international development research

A New Professionalism for Agricultural Research for Development

International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (2017)
IDS publications on international development research

Participatory statistics to measure prevalence in bonded labour hotspots in Nepal: Report on findings of the baseline study

Forced labour of adults and children in the agricultural sector in Nepal is a well-documented problem. This report details a baseline study of bonded labour in three districts in South East Nepal with documented evidence of adults and children working through a system of agricultural bonded labour known as Harwa-Charwa. More details

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