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Development Theories, Participatory Approaches and Community Development

Authors:
  • University of the Western Cape,

Abstract

The study begins by the conceptualization of basic terminology and concepts will expand to examine the different types of development theories. It will also examine the rationale, principles and participatory approaches towards community development. I argue and the result of my study clearly indicates that it is feasible to use a participatory development approach in facilitating the community development process.
Development Theories, Participatory Approaches and
Community Development.
By
MF. Dinbabo, 2003.
Suggested citation
Dinbabo, MF., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community
development. Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development,
University of the Western Cape.
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 2 of 20
Contents
Page
1. Introduction 3
2. Conceptualization of terms and terminology 4
3. Development theories and participatory approaches 6
3.1.The philosophical basis of traditional development theories 6
3.2. Theories of participatory approach/humanistic approach 8
3.3. Rationale and principles of participatory approach 9
3.4. Basic participatory tools 10
4. Community development 12
4.2. Community development theory 12
4.3. Community development and system theory 12
4.4. Community development and the participatory approach 13
5. Conclusion 14
Annex-1 Widely practiced participatory tools and their acronyms 19
Annex-2 Some of the major methods of PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) 20
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 3 of 20
1. Introduction
Chinese Philosopher Lau Tse embodies the essence of the participatory approach to
community development in the following poem.
"Go and meet your people, live and stay with them, love them, work with them.
Begin with what they have, plan and develop from what they know, and in the
end, when the work is over, they will say: "we did it ourselves"(Dennis, 1977).
This ironic description of Chinese Philosopher Lau Tse has a direct linkage with the
theories, concept, principles and approaches of participatory community development.
Within this fundamental base the purpose of this essay is to establish and test a
general theoretical framework for a participatory development approach aimed at
facilitating a more relevant and socially responsible form community development.
To accomplish this task, the following question will be examined. "Is it feasible to use
a participatory development approach to facilitate community development?”
The study begins by the conceptualization of basic terminology and concepts will
expand to examine the different types of development theories. It will also examine
the rationale, principles and participatory approaches towards community
development.
I argue and the result of my study clearly indicates that it is feasible to use a
participatory development approach in facilitating the community development
process.
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 4 of 20
2. Conceptualization of terms and terminology
With the objective to give insight to the readers regarding specific concepts related to
this essay, basic key terms and concepts are briefly explained here below:
The concept development is very broad and encompasses values such as capacity
building, equity, sustainability, self-reliance and empowerment. In general, as
different scholars have defined (Coetzee, 2001; Cypher & Diethz, 1997; Weyman &
Fussell, 1996; Gharajedaghi & Ackoff, 1986) it includes the improvement of people
lives in terms of economic, social, political, environmental, spiritual/personal and
cultural aspects.
Weyman and Fussell (1996) elaborate and define development as a process whereby
people make life easier for each other by collaborating in the formulation of a vision
their future and a collective action for resolution of perceived needs. According to
Coetzee (2001:120) development refers to “…the connotation of favorable change
moving from worse to better; evolving from simple to complex; advancing away from
the inferior…a form of social change that will lead to progress...the process of
enlarging people’s choices of acquiring knowledge, and having access to resources for
a decent standard of living”. For Gharajedaghi & Ackoff (1986) development is a
mechanism in which people increase their abilities and desires with the objective to
satisfy their own needs.
Participation evokes involvement of the community in the decision making process
of implementation of development projects (Maser, 1997). According to Oakely
(1991) the term participation refers to harnessing the existing physical, economic and
social resources of rural people in order to attain the objectives of community
development programs and projects. Paul (1987) also refers participation as the shift
and a self-transformational process and learning by practice.
Participatory development is broadly understood as an active involvement of people
in making decisions about implementation of processes, programs and projects that
affect them (Slocum, Wichhart, Rocheleau, & Thomas-Slayter, 1995). The basic
element of participatory development is to view the term participation as the exercise
of people’s power in thinking and acting, and controlling their action in a
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 5 of 20
collaborative framework. Accordingly, the key concept of participatory development
includes the collaborative effort of people, taking initiatives by themselves in terms of
their own thinking and deliberations (Rahman, 1993; Oakley, 1991).
The term capacity building, according to Eade (1997), refers to enabling institutions
to be more effective and efficient in the process of identifying, implementing,
monitoring and the evaluation of development projects. Eade & Williams (1995) also
note that capacity building is a mechanism of enabling local people to determine their
own values, priorities and act on their decisions. According to Schuftan (1996), the
term capacity building refers to an approach to community development that raises
people’s knowledge, awareness and skills to use their own capacity and, using
available support systems, to resolve the more underlying causes of
underdevelopment.
A community refers to a group of people living together with a common attachment
to their place of residence. It is a place where people encounter one another ‘face to
face’ (Maser, 1997). It also refers to a partially delimited ‘territorial entity of
indeterminate scale’ and also an ‘evocative idea, used to refer to a place or sense of
calm, refuge and harmony’ (Johnston, 1985:61).
The concept Community development is the new paradigm of development that
focuses on participatory methodologies and ensures the involvement of the
community in the decision making process. It also encourages the use of practical and
generalist skills, on locally derived revenues (Maser, 1997; Abott, 1995; Hawken,
1983). It is also a process of organisation, facilitation and action that allow people to
create a community in which they want to live through a conscious process of self-
determination (Maser, 1997). It also operates successfully within the specific
environment where the government is open for community involvement in the
decision-making process (Abott, 1995).
The term empowerment has many meanings and uses (Rappaport, 1961). However, it
is common to view empowerment as a process in which a person or community gives
or gets power from another. The notion is that power originates outside the person or
community, who gives or gets it from another. There is always another person or
community that can become empowered. However, the key is for people to recognize
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 6 of 20
and act upon the power or potential power that they already have (Checkoway, 1995).
Empowerment is also termed as gaining of strength, confidence and vision to work for
positive changes (Eade, 1997).
Sustainability refers to the conservation of natural resources and a sense of obligation
to future generations (Becker & Jahn, 1999). It relates to the capacity of an
organization or set of activities to become self-supporting (Eade & Williams, 1995).
Shepherd (1998) also notes that it is a means of looking after resources while
maintaining present or existing activities.
3. Development theories and participatory approaches
Since the 1950s, a diversity of theoretical and empirical traditions has converged in
the field of development approaches. Such convergence produced a rich analytical
vocabulary, but also resulted in conceptual confusion (Waisbord, 2001). The field has
not experienced a linear evolution in which new approaches superseded and replaced
previous ones. Instead, different theories and practices that had originated in different
disciplines have existed and have been used simultaneously.
This part of the essay identifies the different types development theories, traces their
origins, their practical applications, draws comparisons, and indicates strengths and
weaknesses. It also analyzes the main understandings of participatory development
approach and major tools of application.
3.1.The philosophical basis of traditional development theories
Different schools of traditional development theories have emerged in the past few
decades and a range of views are reflected by different theorists. Some of the basic
argument of traditional development theories including: Modernization, Marxist and
dependency theories that will briefly elaborated on. First let us review the basic
argument of modernization theory.
Modernization theory emerged in the late fifties and early sixties (Evans & Stephens,
1988). The theory stem from the ideas from Durkheim, Weber and Parsons who
explained the transformation from traditional to modern societies in terms of
population growth with its divisions of labour; personal motivation and the change of
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 7 of 20
moral values and norms. According to modernization theorists, the first world
industrial countries are modern and the third world countries are traditional.
Development is only possible when “primitive” values and norms are replaced with
modern ones (Evans & Stephes, 1988; Simpson, 1987). Contact with the modern
world, whether by trade or language, will therefore incorporate and transform the
primitive culture, leading the way to development (Webster, 1984: 44-51).
The basic premise of modernization theory is that development is possible, and that in
order to achieve it, developing nations should copy the Western European experience,
which was characterized by a set of stages in which development took place (Coetzee,
2001; Evans & Stephens, 1988:742; Alvin, 1953). There is also another theory of
development viewed by Karl Marx, the well-known Marxist theorist.
Marx claims that “the country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the
less developed, the image of its own future” (Marx, 1867: 8-9 in Evens & Stephens,
1988:743). Marxist theory, like modernization theory, sees the role of the market as
the solvent that would break down traditional cultures and would allow for
development to take place (Evans & Stephens, 1988: 749). As the shortcomings of
both modernization and Marxist theory became more apparent, another school of
thought known as dependency theory emerged to explain the weaknesses of the above
theories.
The basic argument of dependency theory is that the reliance on the international
market that led to the domination of transitional capital because of the unequal
exchange between core and periphery, benefiting only the core (Evans & Stephens,
1988:749). Frank (1969) argued that the major causes for inequality are historical
colonialism and western capitalism. Evans & Stephens (1988) noted that, in contrast
with modernization theory, dependency theorists regard the state and its agents as
active actors in the process of underdevelopment.
I argue that even though all of the above traditional development theories give us
insight in to the notion of development; all of them fail to provide an all-
encompassing explanation of the concept of development especially for developing
countries. Having the above traditional development theories as a background, let us
explore the fundamental theory of participatory development.
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 8 of 20
3.2. Theories of participatory approach/humanistic approach
According to Waishbord (2001) participatory theories criticized the modernization
paradigm on the ground that it promoted a top-down ethnocentric and paternalistic
view of development. They argued that the strategic model proposed a conception of
development associated with a western vision of progress. The top-down approach of
persuasion models implicitly assumed that the knowledge of governments and
agencies was correct, and that indigenous populations went either ignorant or had
incorrect beliefs (Cypher & Diethz, 1997; Weyman & Fussell, 1996).
Dissatisfaction with the above traditional development theories lead to a re-
examination of the purpose of development towards a search for alternative
conceptual explanations. A host of development scholars (Roodt, 2001; Pendirs, 1996;
Rahman, 1993; Chambers, 1992; Conyers & Hills, 1990; Dodds, 1986) have began to
answer this challenge, articulating a concept known as Participatory, or “People
Centered Development”. Current debates and development efforts focus on ‘bottom
up’ planning, ‘People-Centered Development’ and the view that ordinary people have
the capacity to manage their own development. This theory encourages the
involvement of all stakeholders in the process of development (Burkey, 1993;
Rahman, 1993; Oakley, 1991; Bryant & White, 1982) and will be used to the
development initiatives that exist in the third world countries.
One of the most influential thinkers in recent years in the area of social and
educational thought has been Paulo Freire, Freire's model proposes a change of
strategy where students are on equal terms with their teachers and that is possible only
in a transformational mode (Gadotti, 1994). The impact of his ideas has been felt far
beyond the area of educational thought. Freire's model and participatory models in
general proposed a human-centered approach that valued the importance of
interpersonal channels of communication in decision-making processes at the
community level (Siddiqui, 2003).
For participatory theorists and practitioners, development required sensitivity to
cultural diversity as well as other specific points that were ignored by modernization
theorists. The lack of such sensitivity accounted for the problems and failures of many
projects (Coetzee, 2001). The main essence of participatory development theory is an
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 9 of 20
active involvement of people in making decisions about implementation of processes,
programs and projects, which affect them (Slocum, Wichhart, Rocheleau, & Thomas-
Slayter, 1995). Participatory development approaches view the term “participation” as
the exercise of people’s power in thinking, acting, and controlling their action in a
collaborative framework.
Roodt (2001) and Dodds (1986) have noted that the participatory development
approach stresses the participation of the majority of the population (especially the
previously excluded components such as CBOs, Women, Youth and the illiterate) in
the process of development program. This approach views development as a process
which focuses on community’s involvement in their own development using available
resources and guiding the future development of their own community. The wishes of
an individual never superimposes on those of a group. This approach emphasis
concept such as: capacity building, empowerment, sustainability and self-reliance.
According to the belief of participatory development theory, the answer to the
problem of successful third world development is not found in the bureaucracy and its
centrally mandated development projects and programs, but rather in the community
itself. This needs its capacities and ultimately its own control over both its resources
and its destiny (Korten, CM, 1986).
3.3. Rationale and principles of participatory approach
The rationale behind the emergence of the participatory development approach is that
the participation and involvement of beneficiary groups develop and strengthen the
capabilities of beneficiary groups in development initiatives. This is empowering, and
leads to self-transformation and self-reliance thereby ensuring sustainability (Pendirs,
1996; Rahman, 1993; Conyers & Hills, 1990).
In this context the Chinese philosopher, Lau Tse, argues that the principles of the
participatory approach includes (Dennis, 1997):
Inclusion - of all people, or representatives of all groups who will be affected
by the results of a decision or a process - for example a development project.
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 10 of 20
Equal partnership - recognizing that every person has skill, ability and
initiative and has an equal right to participate in the process, regardless of their
status.
Transparency - all participants must help to create a climate conducive to
open communication and building dialogue.
Sharing power - authority and power must be balanced evenly between all
stakeholders to avoid the domination of one party.
Sharing responsibility - similarly, all stakeholders have equal responsibility
for decisions that are made, and each should have clear responsibilities within
each process.
Empowerment - participants with special skills should be encouraged to take
responsibility for tasks within their specialty, but should also encourage others
to also be involved to promote mutual learning and empowerment.
Cooperation - is very important; sharing everybody's strength reduces
everybody's weaknesses.
3.4. Basic participatory tools
In discourses around sustainable development, the term participatory approach has
become a widely advocated methodological principle for intervention practice, and a
range of participatory methodologies, methods and techniques have been proposed in
order to operationalize it. Despite the fact that important differences exist among the
various methodologies, they have in common that they primarily perceive the process
in which actors supposedly participate as a process of planning, decision-making
and/or social learning (Cees, 2000).
A number of participatory methodological approaches have been adopted to bring
about sustainable development at the community level. However, each participatory
approach is deemed suitable for a specific type of problem situation, in relation to
which it aims to generate certain contributions. In part, this explains why so many
methodologies and approaches exist, each with its own acronym, abbreviation or
(marketing) label. Let us briefly view PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) and PAR
(Participatory Action Research).
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 11 of 20
PRA is a set of informal techniques used by development practitioners in rural areas
to collect and analyze data. PRA was developed in the 1970s and 1980s in response to
the perceived problems of missing outsiders or miscommunications with the local
people in the context of development work (GTZ, 1995).
Several authors (Farm Africa, 1996; GTZ, 1995; Dunn, 1994) note that PRA uses
group animation and exercises to facilitate information sharing, analysis, and action
among stakeholders. Although originally developed for use in rural areas, PRA has
been employed successfully in a variety of settings. The purpose of PRA is to enable
development practitioners, government officials, and local people to work together to
plan context appropriate programs.
In PRA, local people undertake data collection and analysis, with outsiders facilitating
rather than controlling. PRA is an approach for shared learning between local people
and outsiders, but the term is somewhat misleading. PRA techniques are equally
applicable in urban settings and are not limited to assessment only. The same
approach can be employed at every stage of the project cycle and in a country’s
economic and sector work (Chambers, 1992). Another important tool in the area of
participatory approach is PAR (Participatory Research Action).
According to Allen and Unwin (1997) PAR is a systematic learning process in which
people act deliberately by remaining open to surprise and responsive to opportunities.
It is a process of using critical intelligence to inform action, and developing it so that
social action becomes praxis (critically informed, committed action). Checkland
(1992) noted that PAR is contingent on authentic participation, which involves a
continuing spiral of planning; acting (implementing plans), observing
(systematically), reflecting and then re-planning and so that the spiral goes round
again.
Kemmis & McTaggar (1998) indicated that PAR establishes self-critical communities
of people participating and collaborating in the research processes of planning, acting,
observing and reflecting. It aims to build communities of people committed to
enlightening themselves about the relationship between circumstance, action and
consequence, and to emancipating themselves from the institutional and personal
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 12 of 20
constraints, which limit their power to live by their legitimate, and freely chosen
social values.
4. Community development
4.2. Community development theory
According to Christenson & Robinson (1980), people have been making carriers of
stimulating improvement or development of communities for generations. However,
untill know there is no clear point at which a type of approach directed toward this
end became identified as " community development".
The term community development gained its popularity after the Second World War
with the objective to induce improvement at the community level. Accordingly,
enormous agencies, institutions, voluntary associations, development associations and
governments fanned out to encourage community development. All these
organizations pounced the pavements and footpaths to bring community development
to the people. However, during the earlier days, they all began, and continued for
some time without anything approaching a comprehensive theory (Cook, 1994).
However, Cook argues that theoretical assertions have always been seen at the heart
of practice–oriented development and over the years, an elaborative network of
theoretical elements under girding community development practice has emerged.
According to Cook (1994:3) “ because of the wide-range circumstances and workings
of communities, content from almost all of the disciplinary theories may be relevant
in community development. Therefore, community development theory has used and
will continue to borrow from the theories of the standard disciplines. In a very sense,
most theoretical developments of the discipline lines form a reservoir for community
development theory”.
4.3. Community development and system theory
Tamas (2000) and Cook (1994) refer community development as a very complex
activity and there are so many elements involved that it seems almost impossible to
describe development in a clear and organized manner. However, Tamas (2000)
argues that although it is indeed a very complex field, there is a method that can be
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 13 of 20
used to identify many of the components and processes involved in this work. This
way of organizing information has been called “system theory”. Tamas also indicated
that some of the key concerns of community development, such as understanding the
dynamics of inter-group relationships, and considering the changes involved in
planning development activities, can be clearly described using system theory.
Bertalanffy (1968) noted that system frameworks have a number of advantages in
descriptions, explanations, predictions and prescriptions as well as searching out
relationships and patterns of interactions.
4.4. Community development and the participatory approach
The debate on community development began to place the question of participation as
a critical variable for community development in mid and late 1970s. This is due to
the fact that the emerging failures of top-down, expert-designed development projects
and programs supported the promotion of participation as a central concept in
development. He also argues that the indigenous knowledge and skills of those who
are critical participants and central actors in the development process should be
central (Chambers, 1982).
The main tenet of participatory community development approaches is that all
stakeholders collaborate in any development activities from the very beginning of
project identification, prioritization, planning, implementing, evaluation and
monitoring. It is also geared towards achieving a sense of ownership and
sustainability of the projects (GTZ-OSHP, 2002). In contrast to the traditional
community development approach, the participatory approach gives a greater
emphasis on building capacity, empowerment, self-reliance and sustainability of the
projects. Participatory approaches can also challenge perceptions, leading to a change
in attitude and agendas (Farm Africa, 2002).
According to Farm Africa (1996) the participatory community development approach
provides the following advantages to the targets groups at the grassroots level:
Sustainability and self-reliance: participatory development leads to increased
self-reliance among the community and to the establishment of a network of
self-sustaining organizations. This carries important benefits such as greater
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 14 of 20
efficiency of development services and opportunities for the community to
contribute constructively to the development processes.
Building of democratic organizations: the settings and size of a community
in a particular location is ideal for the diffusion of collective decision-making
and leadership skills, which can be used in the subsequent development of
inter-group federations.
Higher productivity: given access to resources, the community share fully in
the benefits of their efforts. They also become more receptive to new
technologies, services, and achieve higher levels of production. This helps to
build net cash surpluses that strengthen the group’s economic base and
contribute to the community capital formation.
Reduced costs and increased efficiency: the contributions of the community
in terms of knowledge of local conditions, labour, locally available materials
and finance to projects reduce costs. The community also facilitates the
diagnosis of environmental, social and institutional constraints, as well as the
search for solutions for local problems.
5. Conclusion
Attitudes towards development approaches have changed over the years in exactly the
same way that attitudes to development itself have changed. Originally, academics,
theorists, social planners and development practitioners thought that they knew the
answers to the problems of community development. Currently, there is a paradigm
change and they have become aware that development requires genuine community
participation in the decision-making processes. For any community development
program to be appropriate and sustainable, local communities must be an integral part
of the development activities. Such an approach has been termed "participatory
development" or the “humanistic approach”.
The simplest description of participatory community development is that it is an
approach to development works in which all those involved directly or indirectly
contribute to decision-making processes. The focus and rationale behind the
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 15 of 20
participatory approach for community development requires a methodology that is
sufficiently flexible and compatible to communities.
Involving the community in the decision-making process and analysis of problems
that affect them is a good way to achieve sustainable development. As opposed to the
traditional approach of community development, participatory approaches generally
lead to development efforts that are sustainable over the long term because the people
themselves have a stake in their success.
This study clearly identified that the participatory community development approach
is useful to bring about sustainable community development at the grassroots level.
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 16 of 20
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Page 19 of 20
Annex-1 Widely practiced participatory tools and their acronyms
1. APRM-Accelerated Participatory Research Method.
2. GOPP/ZOPP -Goal Oriented Project Planning.
3. PAD-Participatory Action Development
4. PAL -Participatory Action Learning.
5. PAR -Participatory Action Research.
6. PCAP –Participatory Community Action Plan.
7. PFLM-Participatory Forest and Land Management.
8. PFM- Participatory Farm Management
9. PIM -Participatory Impact Monitoring.
10. PLUM-Participatory Land Use Management.
11. PPCM-Participatory Project Cycle Management
12. PPM-Participatory Project Management
13. PPP-Participatory Project Planning.
14. PRA -Participatory Rural Appraisal.
15. PWD-Participatory Women Development.
16. RRA- Rapid Rural Appraisal.
Dinbabo, M.F., 2003. Development theories, participatory approaches and community development.
Unpublished paper. Bellville: Institute for Social Development, University of the Western Cape.
Page 20 of 20
Annex-2 Some of the major methods of PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal)
1. Transect walk
2. Mapping
2.1. Natural resource mapping
2.2. Social mapping
3. Ranking
3.1. Wealth ranking
3.2. Preference ranking
4. Analysis
4.1. Trend analysis
4.2. Historical analysis
5. Venn diagram
6. Seasonal calendar
7. Key informants
8. Photographs
9. Observation
10. Community Action Plan
11. Secondary data review
12. Key informants
13. Semi-structured interviews
14. Workshops and brainstorming
15. Stories, portraits and case studies
16. Team management and interactions
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