Participatory tools

A wide range of participatory methodologies is used within a Reflect process to help create an open, democratic environment in which everyone is able to contribute.

Visualisation tools developed by the practitioners of PRA (participatory rural appraisal) are of particular importance and can provide a structure for the process. These include maps, calendars, matrices, rivers, trees and other diagrams. However, many other participatory methods and processes are also used, including theatre, role-play, song, dance, video and photography. New techniques are constantly being innovated.

How are the participatory methodologies used?

The group or facilitator will decide which tool is appropriate at any given time - and will adapt it accordingly. The tools provide initial structure to a Reflect process, to encourage discussion and so that people can develop their own learning materials, basing their analysis on the systematisation of their own knowledge. This respect for people's own knowledge and experience is a powerful foundation for the Reflect approach to learning - one which builds on what people know rather than focusing on what they do not know. The idea of using participatory methodologies to ensure that people's voices are heard equally, within a structured learning process and to analyse power dynamics, is integral to Reflect.

Risks in using participatory methodologies:

The big challenge is in how we use participatory methodologies - not in the fact that we use them. They must be seen as a catalyst rather than a substitute for debate and the tools should never become an end in themselves. If power relations are ignored there is the danger that they will be used in manipulative, extractive, inequitable and damaging ways. Reflect practitioners recognise that unless we are sensitive to power we will never be able to use such methods for a truly empowering, rights based approach, "Only with a deep awareness of power at all times and at all levels can we use participatory processes effectively." Respecting people knowledge and experience as a starting point is of fundamental importance - but it is important not to romanticise this and restrict people to a local level analysis. Participatory methodologies should be used as a means to link micro to macro analysis.