Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Thursday 22 January 2009

The difference of participation in the South

Participatory planning – does it work in every context? Why did the participants from Western Europe do their assignments better that those from Central and Eastern Europe, not to speak of those from Africa? How much is this inherent in the University’s approach (a government driven approach) to establish a protected area? This is what I learned so far.
In developed countries public participation is an approach for government or governmental institutions to improve their decision making. It requires a range of pre-conditions, e.g. transparency, freedom of information, the ability for adaptive management and to deliver on promises. Good governance.
When the appropriate legal and economic structures are lacking, participatory planning can be successful. But the focus is then often on empowering communities to help themselves without having to lean too much on government or other outside support: see e.g. the Maya Nut case. Mostly it means that the government is at a distance and NGOs or the private sector are the drivers of the process.
In cases where through the support of international cooperation, governments engage in participatory planning, communities quickly ‘smell’ whether the government institutions are serious in terms of follow-up of the participatory planning: mostly a matter of making available appropriate financial and human resources. If not, communities sooner or later back out. Or the process drags on, like in the Nariva Swamp case. In other words what trainers and (future) managers should realize is that participatory planning processes are different - depending on the context.

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