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Participatory appraisal

The term Participatory Appraisal describes a range of approaches to enable local communities to identify their own priorities and make their own decisions about the future. The organising agency facilitates, listens and learns rather than control the process. There is an onus on the agency to support the process eg provide resources and through time, to train ‘champions’ from the local community on the participatory appraisal approach.

This enables local people to engage with existing community groups to shape the agenda and discussion.

It uses visual methods to ensure everyone can participate regardless of background and can be used where people meet in their local communities, increasing its appeal to groups that are usually reluctant to get involved.

At the start of the process the focus is on mapping. As the process develops, participants start finding common ground and prioritise matters. Technical advisors or decision makers can be brought into discussions to provide information to aid decision making/action plans as and when required. This can lead to new plans being developed and implemented.

Despite its name it is not merely for appraisal. Ideally it should be an ongoing cycle of research, learning and collective action – conducted by local people. The long-term goal of this approach is to empower and enable people to analyse and tackle their problems themselves. In the shorter term Participatory Appraisal can be used to map local priorities and understandings of issues.

Local community members in larger or smaller groups can participate. Everyone does not need to meet at the same place or the same time.

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  • A lot of visual methods are used which makes this tool especially useful for participants who find other methods hard to understand;
  • Can be extremely inclusive, flexible, and empowering if run well;
  • The knowledge produced by local community researchers has been proven to be highly reliable, and can help to identify and tackle underlying issues to problems rather than just the symptoms;
  • When local community members have been trained to facilitate a process, this capacity remains within the community for the future;
  • This is a creative and flexible approach that can complement and draw in other techniques as and when needed throughout the process;
  • It can draw on participatory arts and drama techniques to reach particular groups, or explore particular issues.
  • Do not underestimate the need for training and experience among those running the process;
  • May be difficult to fund and organise;
  • Can be challenging and time consuming to collate material from numerous events;
  • It is not always clear when the organising agency needs to be involved.
  • Empowered participants;
  • Better relationships between participants;
  • Reliable and valid mapping of local knowledge and priorities;
  • Action/energy;
  • Consensus/shared vision.
  • Quick results.

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