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Mechanisms which encourage beneficiary participation in decision making in rural development assistance projects in developing countries Public Deposited

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  • 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 lives. 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 community. 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.
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