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Consolidation of Unit 5
by Purvi Dass - Monday, 10 November 2014, 12:22 PM

Dear friends,

Thanks for your reflections and analysis for the questions posed for unit 5. In spite of your hectic schedule with your colleagues and family members (post India visit) to catch up with many stories/incidences occurred during your stay here, nine of you have responded. Unfortunately, we could not learn from experiences of Eliza.

The  Reflection questions posed were two;they were

What were/are the major characteristics of that approach?

Why are participatory approaches to analysis, dissemination and utilization to research so critical to your work in the community?

Your responses are based on the idea of “understanding the problem and its solutions through the eye of the community”.   Those who have responded have used both theoretical and practical aspects. I am making an attempt to consolidate our collective reflections and understanding in doable points for our further use in future.

The first question

 The major characteristics so emerged are divided into three categories, as follows:

Pre-Research Phase

During Research Phase

Post Research Phase

The unique characteristics of each phase in totality make it a participatory research.

Pre – Research Phase:

  • Rapport building with the community

Developing trust in the community to start the process is prerequisite for  success of the participatory research projects.

Taniya expresses the research should involve trust-building, partnership development and maintenance in all phases of the research. Masud writes Interest comes from the community people. Interaction, trust building and facilitation skill is very important. Gaffer shares that creation of enabling environment and rapport building is the pre-requisite ingredient of any PR approach.

  • Mobilization

Community agrees to come to a common platform for the problem/issue.

 Khaleda shares that it promotes the use of mobilization and community organization strategies, particularly amongst oppressed sections of society. Mirza reflects that  in PR mobilization is coming together of the people around the specific issue to think, plan and act upon it.

During Research Phase

  • Collective Identification of issue/s

The community may be defined by a geographic area and/ or common identity. The issue is identified within this community.

  • Masud feels Community people identify their problem and diagnosis for solutions also control the knowledge. Participation is the heart of the approaches. Hejbullah states that useful knowledge enables people to solve their problems and improve their lives. Taniya emphasizes that the research should explicitly identify, support and reinforce social structures, processes, and knowledge already existing in the community that help them work together to improve their lives.
  • Flexibility and adaptability

Within the framework, as the process unfolds there is a need to adapt new information and flexiblity to include in the process.

Taniya says that PR obeys the flexibility based on the context. There is nothing hard and fast rule to do based on any theories. Considering the circumstances the contents and methods should be changed. Gaffer writes that there should be appropriate flexibility and adaptability in PR approach as people’s knowledge, skills and attitude are different from individual to individual.

  • Facilitator’s role  

The ability of participatory Researcher/s to be at the back stage and  ensure/s that community takes the lead role is true participatory research facilitator.

Gaffer says thatfacilitator is the initiator and or standing in the central point to collect authentic data/information, validating, analyzing, and interpreting to achieve the goal and objectives of the PR. Hejbullah insists that interveners adopt the position of facilitators, catalysts or change agents rather than positions of dominance. Mirza writes the researcher adopts the position of a change agent rather than apposition of dominance. Khaleda feels that outsiders as Facilitators, may be  activists, educators, facilitators, community animators, or researchers. Their role is to initiate a participatory process and take steps to ensure that the local people and groups have control and it steadily increases.

  • Community ownership

The facilitator builds the process from background in a way that the community starts owning the process.

Rahul quotes IFAD, 2000  as strengthen the ownership of the conclusions where joint analysis motivates stakeholders to invest more in making changes happen. Hejbullah mentions that the process of collective discovery and decision making enables individuals to accept change more readily. Mirza shares Communities have a greater degree of the control and responsibilities of the research activities. Gaffer insists that one of the  vital characteristics of Participatory research approach as community is the most important source of information, therefore their ownership has to be ensured of PR process. Tuhin writes that people themselves collect the data, and then process and analyse the information using methods easily understood by them

  • Collective Conclusion

 Community together analyses the data and come to the conclusion for further action.

Rahul emphasizes that initial information is discussed and more refine insight information emerges. An agreement is built and clear picture of a situation/event/process and reach consensus by discussing data. Thus contradictions and gaps are identified, understood and filled. Hejbullah highlights that when people participate in determining their own future, they become empowered. Mirza emphasizes that it enables workers to participate actively in the creation of new knowledge which has implications of concrete action to improve their lives. Taniya mentions that the  research should disseminate information gained in a respectful and understandable language that acknowledges all participants contributions and ownership of the knowledge production. Khaleda writes that the most important step in this context is collective analysis of a given situation.

Post Research Phase

  • Collective Actions

Key characteristic of post research phase is collective actions by community.

Tuhin mentions that the knowledge generated is used to promote actions for change or to improve existing local actions. He further adds that research is a praxis rhythm of action-reflection where knowledge creation supports action. Masud says action (automatically changing/questioned about the human behavior) is inbuilt of the PR approach. He further adds sustainability is ensured as the problem as well as solution comes from the community. Hejbullah states that focus is on people acting to solve practical problems. These actions then lead to the generation of practical knowledge. He further adds that people start with problems of immediate concern. With increasing conscientisation and experience of participation in planning action, they diversify their actions to include larger issues. He further adds that PR is concerned with useful knowledge i.e. knowledge, which enables people to solve their problems and improve their lives. Mirza writes that enhancement of the understanding and knowledge of the particular situation and taken action to change it to their benefit. Nazmul  feels that this is a democratic, equitable liberating and  life-enhancing  process that provides freedom from oppressive, debilitating conditions.

  • Empowerment

Community develops ability to understand the problems in deeper sense and solve them to  lead a better life.

Khaleda writes the end-result of having knowledge about the existing oppressive reality and control over the process of knowledge generation is empowering. When people participate in determining their own future, they are empowered. Nazmul shares that improving social practice through change and establishing self-critical communities.

The Second question

Why are participatory approaches to analysis, dissemination and utilization to research so critical to your work in the community?

All of us who are in this field of social change believe that community has indigenous knowledge usually in a dormant form, once stimulated through proper facilitation can bring betterment in life.

Our work is based on real life situation (problem) of community. For betterment, getting authentic information is only possible when participatory approaches are used. It also reduces biasness.

The resources are meager in our sector; proper utilization of all resources entails participatory approaches in our work.

We believe in sustainability of our efforts. The community proactively participates to solve their own problems, this gives a cascading effect. Thus sustainability is ensured.

Masud shares the reality as most of our people always demanding for livelihood support whatever issue I am going to work with them. He further adds  people’s preset mind that the so called NGO people come for new issues as for their job not for the interest of their community. Gaffer says if we do not ensure their participation in data analysis the real meaning could be differ. Rahul shares that in some case it may be difficult to ensure all of the stakeholder participation to analysis the data. Moreover interpret the analysis findings with participants and stakeholders may also critical in his work. Taniya joins Rahul in emphasizing that it may also be critical to answer the five evaluation questions like what, why, so what, now what and then what. Rahul further adds as an example that negative information is sometime ignored while sharing the findings with the stakeholders. Hejbullah writes it is also helpful to think about dissemination in three broadly different ways, viz., dissemination for awareness, for understanding, and for action. Mirza Moinul quotes Elden, “solve their own problems and keep solving them”. He further reflects that in his work participatory approaches influence the four aspects - problem definition, methods choice, data analysis & use of findings.  Taniya gives a simile of her work as each and every one need to be under a problem-solving banyan tree. The participants should know how to climb the tree to take the solution fruit. Moreover they need to have a ladder to climb and take the fruit. Khaleda feels that community know their social realities well and can articulate this knowledge. Some elements of this knowledge may be distorted, and some may be the result of critical analyses. It is this existing knowledge which is used daily by the people in their on-going struggle for survival. Khaleda believes that in her work engaging the most trusted people of the community, “gatekeepers,” right from the beginning of the wok to ensure the promotion of an intervention. Nazmul writes six reasons why he feels that participatory approaches are critical in his work. He considers himself as committed participant, facilitator, and learner. Tuhin feels in his work as facilitator ensures collaborative partnership, more ownership within the community, co-learning and empowering process that attends to social inequalities.

Your effort to respond critically to questions posed in Unit 5 forum is appreciated. Most of you have tried to be practical in your approach while responding to the questions, of course sometimes based on theories.

Please note that I have uploaded unit 6 discussion forum question in welcome note for unit 6. As only five days are left forum to close, eager to learn from all of  you.

Looking forward for stimulating practical aspects of the question posed. Your experience is very valuable for all of us.

All the best,