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Community participation

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Community participation in development

In recent years development work has shifted from a top-down approach to a bottom-up approach. While sometimes this is rhetoric, there is also a recognition that participation (and preferably initiation) by the community is essential to an effective project.

This approach is more costly and time-consuming, but is also more cost-effective as it gives much better and longer-lasting results.

Three caveats

Three warnings regarding participation:[1]

  • Participation is not a panacea, and does not suit every circumstance. The mother of a child dying of diarrhea does not want to "participate".
  • Beware of manipulation - conscious or unconscious, e.g. when a "participatory social communicator" has preconceived ideas.
  • Remember the opportunity cost - villagers do not have endless free time, and may be giving up time on productive work in order to participate.

Community power in Turkmenistan

In Turkmenistan's Karra Kum desert, one of the themes to emerge from early participatory video work was a strong local desire for electricity to improve people's lifestyles and enable them to stay in the desert. Participatory video is again being used as a tool for documenting the challenges and decision-making processes involved in the community-led installation of solar power within different shepherding villages. The solar panels are neither sold nor given to the communities; instead, villagers decided that each family should exchange one ewe and one female lamb for their solar lighting system - these animals become the collective property of the village and are used as a "community action fund"...[2]



  1. based on [1] Participatory Communication for Development], 2004, citing White, S.A. (1994). "The concept of participation: transforming rhetoric to reality" in White, S.A. et al (1994) Participatory communication: working for change and development. New Delhi, India: Sage Publications. p.18
  2. from The Communication Initiative's newsletter, Environment & Communication - DB Click, October 31 2006. For more, see Programme Experiences: Solar Power = Community Power - Turkmenistan, 2006