What is participatory appraisal and planning?
In the course of each development project, there are a number of questions that demand attention: Who will benefit? Who will decide how resources are external image File?id=dfjfvtsh_183hbnp59c2_b
allocated? How will success be measured? Traditional approaches have left these questions to be answered by an intermediary; in many cases a person outside the target community who may or may not be familiar with the community’s resources and needs. Participatory appraisal and planning offers a method for increasing the involvement of community members in the early stages of the development process.

Participatory appraisal (also known as participatory rural appraisal or participatory assessment) is a method of data collection and knowledge building involving entire communities. Whereas traditional data gathering and evaluation methods rely on an intermediary to gather information about a project and population, participatory appraisal is characterized by an inclusive approach which emphasizes the community’s own active role in evaluation and knowledge building.

Participatory appraisal is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of methods and tools that emphasize community participation and leadership in identifying resources. What characterizes these methods and tools is the process rather than the product. Special attention is paid to ensuring that methods are inclusive of segments of the community who may not regularly have voice in decision making processes. For example, if a segment of the population is illiterate, methods may be solely oral and pictorial.

Participatory planning uses many of the same techniques as participatory appraisal and also emphasizes the expertise of local community members. However, in participatory planning, the stress is on moving from knowledge building to action. In both participatory appraisal and planning, the implementers of the process should design a process based on the needs of the community which takes into account existing community structures.

Why is it important?
Decisions about development are complex and embedded in the “dynamics of the social, economic, political, and environmental systems”([[@http://7.|1]] ). The importance of participative appraisal and planning lies in the recognition that the people who interact with these systems are the ones who have vital knowledge and valuable ideas for improvement. Done effectively, participatory planning is one method for enabling people to participate in shaping their future.

The strength of participative appraisal comes from developing contextual information that can then inform actions of a community or organization. Certainly not a panacea for development, participative planning and appraisal tools can aid in improving bottom up communication, identifying real strengths and needs vs. perceived strengths and needs of a community, providing avenues for communication between funders, implementers and beneficiaries, encouraging communities to take control of their own development, and encouraging a shift from supply driven strategies to demand driven strategies. These techniques may also facilitate tapping into local knowledge, growing community capacity and confidence, identifying root causes of problems, and developing longer term sustainability.

What programs and tools are out there?
Methods in the toolbox of community appraisal:
  • Mapping – community drawn maps identifying communal facilities, assets, liabilities, and private property. These maps reveal knowledge about community resources, land use, and ownership characteristics. One purpose of mapping is to create an overview of community resources and opinions on them.
  • Community inventory – list of community identified resources.
  • Models – three dimensional maps that emphasize the importance of some physical features of a community over others
  • Focus group discussions
  • Trend lines – a focus group technique to identify patterns of changes over time. For instance, a facilitator may ask questions regarding changes in government services over a 5-year period.
  • Ranking – a focus group technique meant to identify the group’s overall rank of items in response to a set of questions. For instance, a facilitator may lead a discussion on key community education goals, actions taken by the government to fight corruption, or community needs. The items identified are then ranked in order of preference. A scorecard for ranking items based on a set of established criteria can be helpful.
  • Seasonal and historical diagramming
  • Institutional mapping
  • Semi-structured interviews - information, guided interview sessions which aim to gather information from different segments of the community

Global Voices – Using Video as an Empowerment Tool, Kenya
The Global Voices project aimed to inform Oxfam’s strategic review process and give people a tool to capture “concerns and possible solutions on issues that affect them.” The project enlisted communication students from the University of Reading to survey a Kenyan community with the help of local youth. Video cameras were used to record conversations and the video recording was fed back to Oxfam to document what real poverty looked like and supplement reports.

Although this project didn’t fully embrace participative appraisal and planning methods, it did utilize ICTs “to articulate and analyse community needs”. A case study of the project was funded by the Department of International Development (DFID) to assess “programmes where ICTs had enhanced ongoing development activities, the ICT activity could be replicated without sizeable investment, and there was a measure of sustainability.” Although the six youth who assisted the University of Reading team in the survey continued the activity for some time after the students left, the project did not have a high measure of sustainability or expand into a community organization. This project was not intended to further Oxfam’s strategic themes, but rather to inform their strategic review process in a more realistic manner than reports could offer.

"After showing the movie on HIV/Aids “The Silent Epidemic” to a group of youth from the informal settlements, he realised he had made the right decision when one of the boys made a declaration that he would immediately start practicing abstinence. The teenager even now talks about choosing a celibate lifestyle. This boy was the “cool kid” in his community and his behaviour change has had an impact on other boys in his group who now question their own sexual activity." - quote from CLC regarding the project

Mobile Interactive Geographical Information Systems (MIGIS), China
The MIGIS project in China aimed to provide farmers with computer supported information and maps so that they could “carry out an evaluation of their environment and socio-economic situation, and in consultation with outside government officials and scientists acting as facilitators, devise a series of action plans designed to enable them to pursue a strategy of sustainable growth.” The MIGIS Feasibility Study was established to promote MIGIS as “an advanced mode of participatory intervention for use in rural development planning in the highlands of the Upper Mekong Sub-Region” and to “transfer MIGIS skills” to Chinese partners.

Participatory Planning for Ecotourism Development, Peru
The Mountain Institute formed a core team of Huascaran National Park staff and trusted external people to develop an ecotourism management plan for the park. The central administration of INRENA (National Institute of Natural Resources) supported the management plan “as a way of opening up the park for infrastructure development”. The team assessed tourism within the park, strengths and weaknesses of park management, and participated in workshops to develop the plan, which would affect their own work. A complete field inventory of the park was done to familiarize staff with the park and build staff capacity.

How do the conditions of the Millennium Village Project (MVP) affect the use of this tool?

Participatory appraisal and planning was developed with rural, developing conditions in mind as a way to involve communities that typically had no power in a development context. For this reason, participatory appraisal and planning methods have high likelihood of success given the conditions in MVPs. However, the conditions of poverty and lack of infrastructure may limit the success of participatory appraisal and planning implementation in the following ways:

  • Lack of funding for sustainability
  • Lack of resources such as paper, pens, storage facilities, technical tools
  • Lack of trained facilitators

Participative appraisal and planning may not be appropriate in development situations that demand short-term solutions, quick turn-arounds, or where corruption or disaster scenarios would debilitate any community-based plans. It is most appropriate where long-term engagement between participants is expected, follow-up is possible, trained facilitators are available, and slower, quality-oriented solutions are sought.

Sources Cited:


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