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

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

Katy Oswald photo More details

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Marina Apgar photo More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros 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

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IDS publications on international development research

Citizen-led Accountability: Recommendations and Key Research Findings for the Post-2015 Agenda

This document outlines key recommendation for citizen-led accountability in the post-2015 framework. More details

This is the cover for Participate publication, 'What Matters Most?'.

What Matters Most? Evidence from 84 Participatory Studies with Those Living with Extreme Poverty and Marginalisation

This Participate report draws on the experiences and views of people living in extreme poverty and marginalisation in 107 countries. More details

IDS publications on international development research

People's Experiences of Living in Poverty: Early Findings for High Level Panel Deliberations

This document presents the early findings of Participate's major synthesis of recent participatory research and sets out eight key messages from those who are living in poverty and who are most marginalised. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Participate Global Participatory Research Network Map

This map outlines the geographic distribution of the Participate global participatory research network, the work of the organisations and their specific research within Participate. More details

IDS publications on international development research

CLTS in Africa: Trajectories, Challenges and Moving to Scale

This book chapter looks at the progress and maturing of Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in Africa. It introduces innovations and adaptations, poses questions and challenges and suggests possible ways forward as CLTS goes to scale on the continent. More details

IDS publications on international development research

What Do We Know About How to Bring the Perspectives of People Living in Poverty into Global Policy-making?

Review of what has come before in global consultations with people living in poverty. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Education as Active Citizenship: Children and Young People as Agents of Change in the Development of Sustainable Communities

Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability (2012)

This article presents a framework for discussing the roles children and young people might take as agents of change in sustainable community development. More details

Front cover for IDS Bulletin 43.5 New roles for communication in development? September 2012

New Roles for Communication in Development?

IDS Bulletin 43.5 (2012)

This Bulletin explores the significant shift in the landscape of research communications in development in recent years and how this might give us new understandings of what drives social change and policy influence. More details

This is the image for IDS Working Paper 400, 'What Next for Power Analysis? A Review of Recent Experience with the Powercube and Related Frameworks'.

What Next for Power Analysis? A Review of Recent Experience with the Powercube and Related Frameworks

IDS Working Paper 400 (2012)

The Working Paper aims to contribute to a growing pool of experience of applying power analysis for improving social activism and organisational practice. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Lessons Learned and Ways Forward - Pathways to Protection – Referral Mechanisms and Case Management for Vulnerable Children in Eastern and Southern Africa

There is a need for a more comprehensive and systematic response, of which referral mechanisms and case management are crucial elements. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Author Reflections

IDS Bulletin 43.3 (2012)

This article is made up of a few individual reflections from the authors of articles in this IDS Bulletin on why they used action research approaches and/or some of the critical issues that they see as important. More details

This is the image for 'Provocations for Development'.

Provocations for Development

Provocations for Development is an entertaining and unsettling collection of writings that questions concepts, conventions and practices in development. More details

This is the image for IDS Bulletin 43.3, 'Action Research in Development'.

Action Research for Development and Social Change

IDS Bulletin 43.3 (2012)

Contributors to this IDS Bulletin reflect on both the theory and the practice of action research for development and social change, as we engage in it today. More details

This is the image for IDS Working Paper 389, 'Women’s Empowerment Revisited: From Individual to Collective Power among the Export Sector Workers of Bangladesh'.

Women’s Empowerment Revisited: From Individual to Collective Power among the Export Sector Workers of Bangladesh

IDS Working Paper 389 (2012)

Bangladesh has become known as something of a success in advancing gender equality since the 1990s. Yet as this paper notes, close observers of social change in Bangladesh have become dissatisfied with the limits of a focus on individual economic empowerment. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Anatomy of Coping

Evidence of People Living through the Crisis 2008 - 11 More details

Non-IDS publication

Participation Among Marginalized Young People in Brazil: Using Action Research to Support Subjective Well-Being in Volunteering

Philippine Journal of Public Administration LVI.1 (2012)

People have recognized the intrinsic value of informal exchanges of time, energy, and resources for creating a social context that supports human well-being. Attempts to harness these benefits by nongovernment and government agencies have led to the organization of structured platforms to nurture voluntary acts of public service and pro-social behavior. More details