Beyond participation: strategies for deeper empowerment

Mohan, Giles (2006). Beyond participation: strategies for deeper empowerment. In: Cooke, Bill and Kothari, Uma eds. Participation: The New Tyranny? London: Zed Books, pp. 153–167.



This chapter has two major aims. The first is to critique existing participatory practices, especially the ways in which local knowledge is generated as a necessary first-step in reversing the 'top down' approaches of many development initiatives. This critique is realised largely through the use of concepts derived from postcolonial studies. In order to do this effectively, the following section outlines some of the major themes within postcolonial studies as it is a relatively recent and poorly defined area of the social sciences. These critical insights are then used in section two to examine the ways in which participatory research methods tend to reinscribe relations of authority between the outside facilitator and the grassroots. The second aim, which is dealt with in section three, is to re-work approaches to participatory development in light of the preceding criticisms. This is done through both theoretical considerations and a case study of a small NGO working in West Africa. While not wanting to portray the NGO as having overcome all barriers to participation, it is instructive in demonstrating how a reflexive, 'outside' organisation can deal with problematic power relationships at the local level.

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