Participation resources

This section introduces the overarching subject of 'Participation'. This approach to development underpins the application of Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) and, in particular, Community Risk Assessment (CRA). Participation has been discussed, studied and applied in various ways in many sectors since the days of so-called 'community development' in the 1950s and 1960s. This section introduces the core debates and most useful participatory resources for those concerned with risk reduction and is structured as follows:

1. Portals and key websites

2. Networks

3. Key publications and conceptual articles

4. Leading thinkers on PAR, RRA, and PRA and their context

Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire taught adult literacy in the early 1960s in very poor neighbourhoods in Recife in northeast Brazil. His experience led him to formulate an alternative view of education - one that saw the creation of knowledge as issuing from the partnership and dialogue between "teacher" and "student." Freire, who died in 1997, is one of the creators of participatory action research, arguably its father.

Robert Chambers

Twenty years after Freire's early experiments with "the pedagogy of the oppressed," Chambers wrote his classic book, Rural Development: Putting the Last First. In a recent autobiographical essay, he acknowledges many mistakes he made as development administrator and researcher in the 1960s and 1970s in Africa. Fruit of that humility is the rest of his work that traced and to some degree led to the widespread use of local knowledge for development action (See: "Critical Reflections of a Developmental Nomad," in: Uma Kothari, ed., A Radical History of Development Studies, pp. 67-87. London: Zed Press, 2005).

Brief bio and principle writings

Last First Network (inspired by Chambers' 1983 book, Rural Development: Putting the Last First")

Robert Chambers' classics: brief description and ordering details:

5. Participatory action research

The key word in the phrase, PAR, is "action." Although PAR takes many forms across the globe and has focused on areas as diverse as health, agriculture, livestock production and health, forestry, education - as well as hazard risk reduction - the common feature is the iterative: study, plan, act, study, revise plan, act again…

PAR gateways and key websites

PAR essays

PAR applications

Key websites

Examples of practical applications

6. Civil society vs. state relations

The word "participation" implies the existence of another agent or stake holder besides the group engaged in PAR. This is often the government. Even when actions are mediated by a non-governmental organization, all communities do is influenced by what governments and other sectors such as private enterprises do (and omit to do) at international and national scales. Communities, rural and urban, may study their own vulnerabilities and capacities to cope. They may embark on action plans. However, at a certain stage, their self protection must imply a degree of social (e.g. state-based) protection as well. At best communities can be partners of the state in reducing risk. At worst, they must attempt to protect themselves from the lack of government investment in social protection or collusion with interests that undermine community and environmental resilience.