Why do fieldworkers use participatory approaches as they do? This paper uses a case study of fieldworkers’use of Pariticipatory Rural Appraisal in ActionAid the Gambia to address this question. Original empirical material that focuses on fieldworkers’ perception of the factors that influence them is examined through the conceptual framework of structuration theory.
The paper argues that the practice of a participatory approach emerges from a complex process of negotiation where fieldworkers are subject to unique combinations of competing influences from the organisation they work for, the communities they work with and their own personal characteristics. It suggests that fieldworkers can actively pursue personal agendas and can also be involved in changing the structures that condition their actions.
However, the paper concludes that elements of the organisational structure can leave little room for fieldworkers to use their agency positively. Managers need to change this structure if the gap between the policy and practice of participatory approaches is to be reduced.