Participatory methodologies: double-edged swords

The author puts forward the personal view that participatory methodologies (such as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA)) are often used by NGOs in such a way that they create a negative impact on the community they were intended to empower. Arguing that these methodologies incite the poor to feel the need to seem poor - a potentially disastrous starting point for any collaborative community/NGO initiative - the author advocates an approach by which communities identify their resources, and their capacity to improve their quality of life. An earlier version of this article was presented by the author at a PAMFORK Partticipatory Methodologies Workshop held on 24-27 September 1996 at Resurrection Gardens, Karen-Nairobi, and was published in Baobab, Issue 22 (1997). This article is freely available as a chapter in Development Methods and Approaches: Critical Reflections