This approach adopted in the 1990s by the United Nations and other development organizations as key challenges to be addressed successfully.
Common features of this perspective are the emphasis on people, the endogenous vision of development, and the attention to power and rights issues. Participatory approaches require a shift in the way individuals are considered, from passive recipients to active agents of development efforts.
In addition to poverty reduction, they include objectives in education, gender equality, and health issues. Most development priorities are outlined within political frameworks based on the adherence to good governance and democratic principles (for example, freedom and human rights.
The major reasons for the adoption of this approach in development initiatives, maintaining that
(1) services can be provided at a lower cost;
(2) participation has intrinsic values for participants, alleviating feelings of alienation and powerlessness;
(3) participation is a catalyst for further development efforts;
(4) participation leads to a sense of responsibility for the project; and
(5) participation ensures the use of indigenous knowledge and expertise.
The participation is not an absolute concept, and that it can be applied in different degrees, is part of the problem.
A typology that includes seven different types of participation as interpreted and applied by various development organizations ,The full categorization, the least participatory,
- passive participation,
- participation in information giving,
- participation by consultation,
- participation for material incentives,
- functional participation,
- interactive participation, and
(1) passive participation, when stakeholders attend meetings to be informed;
(2) participation by consultation, when stakeholders are consulted but the decision making rests in the hands of the experts;
(3) functional participation, when stakeholders are allowed to have some input, although not necessarily from the beginning of the process and not in equal partnership; and (4) empowered participation, when relevant stakeholders take part throughout the whole cycle of the development initiative and have an equal influence on the decision-making process.
Information sharing and consultation are considered low-level forms of participation, while the other two are considered high-level forms. These types are consistent with others, such as the classification
In particular, participatory research methods allowed a growing role for local stakeholders and indigenous knowledge in the problem-analysis and problem-solving processes of development initiatives.
The model of reference is significantly different from the traditional one, since it is now characterized by dialog and by a horizontal flow, enabling the balanced sharing of perceptions and knowledge.
In this perspective, the communication acquires a more interactive connotation aimed at facilitating participation and empowerment. Even when using mass media, messages can be expected to originate from people themselves rather than from "outside experts" .
The World Bank (1995) identified four types of participation:
(1) information sharing,
(3) collaboration, and
Amartya Sen, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, introduced the concept of capability deprivation to illustrate how poverty is not simply an income issue, but also and especially a social issue. He considers income poverty and capability poverty to be two closely related dimensions because income greatly affects the capabilities of an individual, and vice versa.
The deprivations deriving from feeling excluded from relevant decisions and from seeing limited available options can be successfully addressed through communication, since it is by communicating that individuals perceive and define their conditions and construct their reality in social networks.
This approach facilitates people's involvement in the problem-analysis process, and it stimulates the "reversal of learning" from the rural poor to the experts. They both share a sincere concern for the empowerment of the poorest and the most disadvantaged sectors of society, which often tend to be in rural areas or on the periphery of urban agglomerates. it claims that participatory research should not be neutral but should always side with the poor and the marginalized
Features of Participatory approach
The emphasis on participation in development also implies increased attention to communication, because there can be no participation without communication, at least without a certain type of communication.
Finally, the participation mode also addresses poverty, or at least one of its key dimensions, in a direct way. Poverty is not simply the deprivation of basic material needs; it concerns other significant dimensions of people's life.
Social exclusion is one of the elements contributing to the overall poverty dimension. Eliminating or significantly reducing social exclusion, through the dialogic use of communication, is a step toward a world without poverty.
By engaging stakeholders who often have been excluded from any form of decision making in their lives and allowing them to engage in the decision-making process, development communication not only reduces poor people's "capability.
In other words, the added emphasis on participation helps to mainstream communication in many initiatives, and at the same time promotes a more dialogic and two-way conception of communication.
source: devComm sourcebook Paolo Mcfalopulos