|Abstract or Summary
- This study was designed to discover how beneficiary participation in decision
making can be encouraged and enhanced in rural development assistance projects in
developing countries. The study sought to increase the understanding about how
beneficiary participation occurs through the identification of patterns, processes or
techniques in development assistance projects that enhance the ability of local people to
gain control of the benefits and decision making processes in projects affecting their
The data for this study were obtained from telephone interviews with seven
individuals who are or have been rural development assistance project managers. A
constant comparative method of qualitative data analysis was employed.
The findings indicated that community participation is encouraged and enhanced
in projects that involve a few salient activities, relatively less complex inputs and
consequently less money than larger, more complex projects. These projects should be
based on a felt need in the community and be designed to fit community capabilities. As
such, they enhance the power of participation to produce a recognizable benefit and to
provide a sense of progress toward community established goals. In addition, community
participation is encouraged when some investment is required from the community.
Investment creates ownership and tests the value and appropriateness of the activity to
The case studies suggested that participation is a process that requires support at
the community level, from intermediary organizations and from donor agencies and
national governments. At the community level, the most practical and effective vehicle
through which to implement participatory projects is existing community organizations.
These organizations generally possess the necessary skills to be, and by definition,
should be involved in all phases of the project from design to evaluation. Locally
identified leaders, while a two-edged sword, are necessary for the effectiveness of local
organizations and for the endorsement of project activities.
Intermediary organizations emerge in this study as key actors in the
participatory development process. These organizations act as catalysts and linkages by
informing and sharing information with communities; by helping communities gather
data about themselves in identifying the most critical problems; by mediating in conflict
resolution; and in obtaining funds and other forms of assistance from outside the
community. Their role is characterized by an approach to rural communities that is
both understanding and interactive.
Donor organizations and national governments are seen in the role of development
coordinators. The coordinator role is responsive to community desires and strives for
equality among diverse groups and communities. They emphasize a "process" approach
to development administration. As a result of effective participation, rural poor
communities are able to meet their basic needs, solve their problems, and achieve the
power to control their lives.
In terms of mechanisms encouraging beneficiary participation, this study
recommends the following: 1) Participatory development should be viewed as a process of trial and error learning whose goal is community empowerment. Empowerment signifies the degree to which
people have gained the capacity to obtain results which they intend to obtain from their
involvement in decision making in the development process.
2) Intermediary organizations must assume a key role in the participatory development
process. These organizations are composed of sensitive and understanding people who are
dedicated to community participation. The function of these organizations is twofold.
First, they act as links between donor agencies or national governments and local
communities. Second, they function as catalysts in participatory development. The goal
of these organizations is to facilitate the building of community capacity in terms of
skills and knowledge to the point that the community no longer needs their assistance.
3) The appropriate roles of donor agencies and national governments in participatory
development is as coordinators of development assistance projects. This role requires
them to provide funds specifically for participatory development; to strive for equity in
funding different groups and communities; and to adopt a "process" style of project
administration that is seen as most conducive to participatory development.
4) Projects aiming at encouraging beneficiary participation should start small, with a
few relatively simple activities that respond to local needs. These activities are most
effectively implemented through existing local organizations that are characterized as
having control of financial resources, legal authority, involvement in all project
activities from design to evaluation and are led by community appointed leaders.
5) It is more important to emphasize "how" projects are implemented rather than
"what" is accomplished. This "how" necessarily involves beneficiary participation
which is defined as the participation of beneficiaries in their own development by
controlling resources, defining needs and making decisions about how these needs can
best be met.