4.4.3 How participation has developed
Participation received new attention as an explicit goal in development assistance
in the late 1980s, due to increased emphasis on the sustainability of project
benefits, institutional development and policy reform. Participation was initially
promoted and applied mainly by NGOs and in small scale community development
projects, then increasingly by multilateral organisations such as the FAO, ILO
and UNRISD, as well as some bilateral agencies (OECD, 1997). Agenda 21 contained
an innovative section on participation and responsibility which talked of the
need for a social partnership to build environmental and economic security.
Most of the innovations and accomplishments relating to participatory research
and development have emerged from 'the third sector' (private organisations
which are neither profit making nor affiliated to political parties) (Thompson,
1998). Whilst these organisations are themselves attempting to spread and scale
up their successes, they themselves recognise that experience is very limited:
as Chambers points out, "And, as usual with concepts which gain currency,
rhetoric has run far, far ahead of understanding let alone practice."
(Chambers, 1997). Mainstreaming of participation into operations - i.e.
dialogue, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development
activities- is still a major task ahead for most donors. In-country, public
sector organisations are also taking an increasing interest in participatory
approaches, for a variety of reasons connected with political and economic challenges
in the public sector (Thompson, 1998). Consumer oriented companies will engage
in a quasi consultation process through various business tools such as market
research and focus groups. And, the involvement of business groups, trade associations
and chambers of commerce can be a valuable way of disseminating a technology
through a business community.