There have been few rigorous assessments of the effectiveness of participatory processes for natural resource management. In Bangladesh an approach known as Participatory Action Plan Development (PAPD) has been developed and applied. By combining problem identification and solution analysis by separate stakeholder groups with plenary sessions it is claimed to result in consensus and more effective community based management. Methodological issues in assessing the effectiveness of such development are discussed and good practice illustrated. Under the same project there were sites where PAPD had been used and others without its use so a comparative assessment could be made. However, for an appropriate assessment it is important to identify clear testable hypotheses regarding the expected benefits, appropriate measures, and other factors which may affect or confound the outcome. The paper illustrates how participatory assessment involving both individual opinions and focus groups can be systematically recorded, quantified and used with other data in statistical analysis. By using statistical modelling methods at an appropriate level of aggregation and controlling for other factors, benefits from PAPD were found to be significant. The systematic approaches and practices recommended from this example can be applied in similar situations to test the effectiveness of participatory processes using participatory assessments.
Sultana, P.; Thompson, P.; Abeyasekera, S. Methodological rigour in assessing participatory development. Agricultural Systems (2007) 94 (2) 220-230. [DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2006.08.009]