Participatory research and good governance in East Africa

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Transcript Participatory research and good governance in East Africa

This state of impoverishment is strangling us - We kids on the streets are suffering from it Our community, why don't you speak about it? You sleep over it The youth need your assistance

Participatory research and good governance in East Africa

The link between participatory research and good governance

 Participatory policy research can improve the relevance, quality and reliability of socio economic data for development  Policymaking is inherently a political process. Therefore, it is not enough to generate and disseminate information. “Advocacy” needs to become an integral part of how we design and implement pro-poor social research.

 Good participatory policy research opens up public policymaking processes. This increases the likelihood that they they will respond to the needs of ordinary people rather than special interest groups.

 Participatory policy research can help ordinary people see themselves as agents, rather than passive “beneficiaries” of development

Format of presentation

 The growing demand for development data  An introduction to some participatory policy research methodologies  An assessment of how PPAs in Uganda and Tanzania have affected policies and empowered people to push for pro-poor development policies

Research and public policy in SSA

Our ideas about development are based on information, and our ideas need information to evolve… The problem is that: Governments and other actors in SSA have historically lacked information about local socio-economic realities

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers

The IFIs are becoming (somewhat) more humble about their own development ideas. They have come to see information about local specificities as a prerequisite to:  Customizing conventional proscriptions/ rationalizing public policy decisions (especially about budgets)  Monitoring their impact

Millennium Development Goals

The MDGs commit the international community to a vision of “human development” as the key to sustainable social and economic development for all. The MDGs provide a framework for measuring results.

Sector Wide Approaches

The “Sector Wide Approach” (SWAP) is a strategy for improving the work of line ministries (e.g. health and education). It requires information about inputs/expenses and outputs/results.

CSOs’ need for information

Why do CSOs need information?

Research methodolgies

 Since the early 1980s, the use of multi-topic surveys to learn about household welfare has been growing  At the same time, CSOs and some academic institutions have been developing a “participatory approach” to gathering data and transforming it into information and knowledge

…and their differences

Both methodologies involve people in producing data The key difference is NOT about how they do this OR what kind of data they generate Rather, it is about who is involved in determining what it all means…

“ Participatory research” does not depend on urban elites speculating about the significance of or connections between data.

Instead, it relies upon ordinary people reflecting on, theorizing about, debating and explaining the world in which they live.

The hoped for benefits of participatory policy research


Improved information and understanding of socio-economic conditions 2.

Greater democratization leading to…

Greater social justice

Types of participatory policy research

 Citizen Report Cards   Policy Relevance Tests a “Big Discussion” in the UK  Participatory Poverty Assessments

Citizen Report Cards

     Developed by civil society in Bangalore, India in 1993 Looked at social services in poor areas Helped to communicate poor people’s realities Fostered public discussion and debate. This built pressure for reform Treated users of public services as clients/customers whose voice mattered in the design, delivery and assessment of government services

Policy Relevance Tests

 Began in Rwanda (ActionAid and the University of Butare) and will soon begin in Zanzibar  1.


Use disaggregated “focus groups” to analyze: The relevance of national poverty reduction programs for community priorities The actual impact of new policies on people’s lives

A “Big Discussion” in the U.K.

The “Big Discussion” is taking place right now in the U.K. It is being presented as a means to stimulate thought, share good ideas and develop practical solutions to pressing public concerns. Questions include:    How do we live healthier lives?

How do we give every child an excellent education?

How do we balance work and family life?

Meaningful discussion?

Critics of the Big Discussion are saying it is a means to legitimate pre-conceived positions.

Too early to say whether or not this is correct and/or to what extent…

Participatory Poverty Assessments

A quick:  History of PPAs, in general  Nature of participants  Evolving objectives

The PPA methodology is founded upon:



The belief that ordinary people are knowledgeable about, and are capable of, particularly reliable and insightful analysis of their own life-circumstances The principle that all people lives – irrespective of age, gender, level of formal education, etc. – have a fundamental right to participate in informing the decisions that shape their



The use of proven methods, such as Seasonal Calendars, Venn Diagrams, etc., to facilitate the meaningful involvement of people in the research process A commitment to sharing ownership of research results with local people and facilitating the identification of practical measures people can take to improve their lives

PPA versus PRA/PLA

 Participatory public planning seeks consensus because the goal is to undertake local action…  Participatory policy research needs to grasp the range of conditions people face, their concerns, competing priorities and success stories

UPPAP and the TzPPA

 History  Organization  Site distribution  Duration  Subjects  Methods (versus methodology)  Outputs

Policy impact – micro/meso levels

In Ilala Municipal District (Dar es Salaam):    Provision of counseling services to drug addicts Targeted assistance to Commercial Sex Workers A new approach to encouraging equal access to schooling for boys and girls – this time building upon local ideas about gender, gender roles and education

Policy impact – macro level

UPPAP is attributed with having caused:  The decentralization of budget ITEM decisions to districts  A substantial increase in the proportion of Uganda’s national budget allocated to water and sanitation services

But we must ask…

 To what extent were these changes really influenced by findings from UPPAP?

 Why were equally important (if not MORE important) findings like insecurity, corruption and poverty-causing macroeconomic conditions NOT addressed?


PPAs and other forms of government sponsored participatory policy research are fundamentally

“consultative” exercises so long as government is under no obligation to take their findings into account in policy decisions



Like PRA/PLA, UPPAP and the TzPPA have sought to “empower” marginalized people vis-à-vis others at the grassroots level BUT…

PPAs are different in the sense that their main empowerment objective is to more broadly empower the grassroots vis à-vis other actors (e.g. the state, the private sector and donors)

In order to achieve this goal:

PPAs have experimented with different ways to use and communicate information…

…as well as facilitate CSOs learning how to undertake participatory, policy-oriented reseach on their own.


PPAs in Uganda and Tanzania have:   Identified priority development needs Improved policymakers’ understanding of poverty  Catalyzed and facilitated pro-poor planning in line ministries   Improved relations between government and civil society organizations Tapped poor people’s creative problem solving skills


  It is impossible to involve all stakeholders in PPAs informing public policy. Ensuring “representivity” (versus actual representation) is necessary… and dangerous because some points of view may be excluded.

PPAs are time consuming and expensive in comparison with the process of elites meeting behind closed doors, speculating about citizens’ lives and setting policy

More Challenges

  Many development issues are extraordinarily complex and far removed from the direct experience of ordinary people. Therefore, it might, in some cases, be impossible to rigorously examine an issues through participatory research without demanding too much of people’s time Participatory research can generate quantitative and qualitative information about people’s lives, what they do in response, etc. However, it cannot identify the scope of certain conditions or practices across a region or country.

Still more challenges

  Participatory research does not “help” conventional decision-makers. It is much easier for them to make decisions without the information provided by PPAs. Good research exposes competing interests, challenges orthodox assumptions and reveals complexities that make decision-making very, very difficult.

Not everyone in a community will want to invest their time in the process of participatory research – especially when they expect a welfare relationship to government or lack faith that their efforts will be heard and listened to.