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

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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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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

Non-IDS publication

Systemic Action Research: Changing System Dynamics to Support Sustainable Change

Action Research 12.1 (2014)

This article explores the characteristics of systemic action research. More details

This is the cover to IDS Working Paper 437, 'Using Participatory Process Evaluation to Understand the Dynamics of Change in a Nutrition Education Programme'.

Using Participatory Process Evaluation to Understand the Dynamics of Change in a Nutrition Education Programme

IDS Working Paper 437 (2014)

With roots in approaches to popular education and participatory action research that place the learner and the ‘beneficiary’ of development at the centre of enquiry and action, the participatory visualisation methods associated with Participatory Rural Appraisal have been widely used as tools for learning and accountability. More details

cover page of CLTS publication 'Triggering for Handwashing'

How to Trigger for Handwashing with Soap

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 2 (2014)

This is the second issue of Frontiers of CLTS: Innovation and Insights series. More details

cover image of publication: Participatory Design Development for Sanitation

Participatory Design Development for Sanitation

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights;Issue 1 (2013)

In this issue of the Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights series, Ben Cole, who helped UNICEF to adapt and trial participatory latrine design in Malawi, describes the different stages of participatory latrine design and gives practical guidance based on the experiences in Malawi. More details

Participatory Design Development for Sanitation

Frontiers of CLTS: Innovations and Insights 1 (2013)

Sustainability of latrines is a key issue in Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Sandy or rocky soils, seasonal flooding and termites can present challenges to communities who have taken sanitation into their own hands as a result of CLTS and are building latrines. More details

Non-IDS publication

Learning Study on 'The Users' in Technology for Transparency and Accountability Initiatives: Assumptions and Realities

The report shows that more attention to the end users is important, when designing and implementing projects using Technology for Transparency and Accountability Initiatives. More details

Non-IDS publication

The Impact and Effectiveness of Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

Development Policy Review (Special Issue) 31.Issue Sublement s1 (2013)

This issue of Development Policy Review arises from a study of the impact and effectiveness of transparency and accountability initiatives (TAIs) in different development sectors. It analyses existing evidence, discusses how approaches to learning about TAIs might be improved, and recommends how impact and effectiveness could be enhanced. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Participatory Methods Website

The participatorymethods.org website provides resources on a range of methods for inclusive social development. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Facilitating Cultural Transitions and Change

Facilitating cultural transitions and change provides a practical approach for facilitators needing to enhance their skills when working with participants in transition from a diverse range of multicultural backgrounds. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Decentralisation and Social Cohesion in Religiously Heterogeneous Societies in Transition: A Case Study from Egypt

This paper explores the linkages between decentralisation and social cohesion within communities of differing religious backgrounds. It builds on the case of post-Mubarak Egypt, where an increased but informal devolution of power to manage relations between the majority Muslim and minority Christian populations has not alleviated community tensions. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Outcome Measurement in Local Governance Programmes: A Power Dimension

This paper explores how outcome measurement is understood in several SDC local governance programmes, reviewed in a HELVETAS Learning Project. This critical review assesses the extent to which power issues are recognised, understood and tracked within such programmes and suggests ways to enhance this. More details

This is the image for the Portuguese summary of IDS Working paper 420, 'Melhorando a Prestação
de Contas através dos Conselhos Locais em Moçambique'.

Melhorando a Prestação de Contas através dos Conselhos Locais em Moçambique

IDS Research Summary of IDS Working Paper 420 (2013)

Apesar de limitada evidência empírica, a prestação de contas é tida como meio para o empoderamento, governação democrática, e eficácia do desenvolvimento. More details

Accountability at the Local Level in Fragile Contexts: Nepal Case Study

IDS Working Paper 421 (2013)

This paper presents the Nepal case study from a research project on accountability carried out in three countries. More details

Local Accountabilities in Fragile Contexts: Experiences from Nepal, Bangladesh and Mozambique

IDS Working Paper 422 (2013)

Accountability is one of the five governance principles HELVETAS believes to be the 'core structure' of governance in international cooperation: efficiency, non-discrimination, transparency, participation, and accountability. More details