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

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Photo of Catherine Setchell, IDS Participate Research Communications Manager 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

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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

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

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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.


Patterns and Dynamics of Slavery and Bonded Labour in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh: Findings from Life Story Analysis

This report summarises the findings of the analysis of multiple life stories collected across the Freedom Fund slavery hotspot in North India by NGO representatives at the Collective Story Analysis workshop 13-16 May 2015. The authors outline the major findings and key system dynamics that emerged in the story analysis. More details

This is the cover to the book 'Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating sustainable change at scale.

Navigating Complexity in International Development: Facilitating Sustainable Change at Scale

International development interventions often fail because development experts assume that our world is linear and straightforward when in reality it is complex, highly dynamic and unpredictable. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Innovations from the Field: Gender mainstreaming from the ground up for the World Food Programme

Synthesis report from Phase One (June 2013 – September 2014) of the WFP gender-mainstreaming programme. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Re-grounding Participatory Video within Community Emergence Towards Social Accountability

Community Development Journal 50.4 (2015)

This article frames participatory video predominately as a means for participatory representation. It draws on its use by acutely marginalized communities in Kenya and Palestine to research the local enablers and barriers of change, and explores how such processes can contribute to community-driven development. More details

ER143_FrontCover

The New ‘MASVAW Men’: Strategies, Dynamics and Deepening Engagements. A Case Study of a Networked Approach to Challenging Patriarchy Across Institutions in Uttar Pradesh

IDS Evidence Report 143 (2015)

Uttar Pradesh is ranked second among Indian states in ‘crimes against women’, which includes rape, abduction, dowry-related deaths, mental and physical torture and sexual harassment (Government of Uttar Pradesh 2006: 130). More details

The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?

The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?

Book (2015)

Understanding and demonstrating the effectiveness of efforts to improve the lives of those living in poverty is an essential part of international development practice. More details

This is the cover to Citizen participation and accountability for sustainable development.

Citizen Participation and Accountability for Sustainable Development

IDS Report (2015)

This report articulates three strategies by which the poorest and most marginalised have attempted to ensure accountability from national and global policymakers to local people. More details

IDS publications on international development research

'We can also make change' Piloting participatory research with persons with disabilities and older people in Bangladesh

This report presents the findings of the Voices of the Marginalised pilot research project. It draws on the real-life stories of persons with disabilities and older people, as told to researchers by persons with disabilities, family members of persons with disabilities and older people themselves. More details

Report cover for joint IDS-VSO research on the role of volunteers in sustainable development.

The role of volunteering in sustainable development

This report shares findings from the global action research project, Valuing Volunteering which explores how and why volunteering contributes to poverty reduction and sustainable positive change, and the factors which prevent it from doing so. It reveals that volunteers can make a unique contribution towards efforts to end global poverty. More details

Sustainability and CLTS: Taking Stock Front Cover by Sue Cavill, Robert Chambers and Naomi Vernon

Sustainability and CLTS: taking stock

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 4 (2015)

Sustainability is without doubt one of the most burning subject matters that subsumes many of the issues seen in Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and wider Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practice. This issue of CLTS Frontiers series identifes priority areas for learning More details

This is the cover to the report, 'Bridging and Bonding: Improving the Links Between Transparency and Accountability Actors'.

Bridging and Bonding: Improving the Links Between Transparency and Accountability Actors

Report (2014)

This report is for participants and others with an interest in technology for transparency and accountability. In the same spirit as the event, our intention is to share insights and lessons we have learned to help provoke thought and aide discussion. More details

CDI PP8 Front Cover

Assessing Impact in Dynamic and Complex Environments: Systemic Action Research and Participatory Systemic Inquiry

CDI Practice Paper 8 (2014)

This CDI Practice Paper is about the uses of Systemic Action Research (SAR) and Participatory Systemic Inquiry (PSI) for impact assessment (Burns 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013; Wadsworth 2001, 2010). More details

ER94 Front Cover

A Review of Strategic Foresight in International Development

IDS Evidence Report 94 (2014)

The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the published and grey literatures relating to the use of foresight-type approaches and techniques in policy-related work in international development. More details

PB74 Front Cover

Using Foresight to Cope with Uncertainty

IDS Policy Briefing 74 (2014)

In an increasingly uncertain world where resources are limited, foresight thinking and approaches provide a critical way for governments and communities to understand and plan for the future. More details

Strengthening_Evidence_Based_Policy_2014

Strengthening Evidence-Based Policy: Outputs November 2012 – March 2014

Accountable Grant Outputs Brochure (2014)

Knowledge and evidence are important elements of all policy processes. While the availability of more or higher quality evidence does not guarantee better policy processes, it is difficult to imagine how development policy and outcomes can be improved without it. More details

This is the front cover of MAVC On Speaking, Mediation, Representation and Listening

On Speaking, Mediation, Representation and Listening

This think piece reflects on experiences, debates, assumptions, and questions about what ‘voice’ is and how it can be supported within the Making All Voices Count Framework. More details

This is the cover to 'Knowledge from the Margins: An Anthology from a Global Network on Participatory Practice and Policy Influence'.

Knowledge from the Margins: An Anthology from a Global Network on Participatory Practice and Policy Influence

Report (2014)

This anthology is an account of the activities carried out by the Participatory Research Group (PRG) within the Participate initiative between 2012 and 2014, and also a reflection on the methods and processes created and utilised during that time. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Participate Proposal for Post-2015 Targets

The Participate initiative provides high quality evidence on the reality of poverty at ground level, bringing the perspectives of the poorest into the post-2015 debate. The research demonstrates that there are certain focus areas that need to be addressed to achieve sustainable positive change in the lives of the poorest and most marginalised. More details

Non-IDS publication

Good Practices for Effective Participation in Social Protection Design and Implementation

This short article looks at how participation can provide some answers to overcoming the tendency for elite capture in social protection programmes. More details

This is the image for the book ' Explorations in Development Practice'.

Into the Unknown: Explorations in Development Practice

Robert Chambers reflects on experiences, which led him to examine personal biases and predispositions, and he challenges readers to examine the pervasive significance of power in forming and framing knowledge. Into the Unknown reflects on the journey of learning, and encourages readers to learn from observation, curiosity, critical feedback, play and fun. More details