polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

New Portal Shares Lessons on Participatory Practice

by Jordi Sánchez-Cuenca

Source: Gravis

Today, participatory democracy is an ingredient in most international development programs and projects. City governments around the world, whether high- or low-income, are increasingly aiming to involve citizens in public affairs. The main lessons from several decades of participation practice is that it has many possible levels and forms of application and that it only works when adapted to the local context. In fact, participation as an approach to development planning stems from practitioners that understood development as an endogenous process. This is the reason why the main defenders of participation are those practicing it. However, the strongest voices often come from academia and international development organizations sitting far from the places where participation is actually taking place.

Practice in Participation (PP), an online portal for field-based knowledge on participatory practices, is an initiative that tries to balance this situation. PP provides a voice for those in the field who are often excluded because their texts do not satisfy strict academic requirements or simply do not precisely fit the themes prioritized by mainstream development or planning journals. Based at the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), PP explicitly aims to collect and manage development knowledge through the "gray material" that community-based organizations and development practitioners produce. Membership in the platform is open to practitioners, academics, researchers, policymakers, and community leaders and organizers.

As practitioners, we often capture reflections about development processes and our interactions with communities, local government officials, NGOs and other development agents. This exercise is usually a way of giving form and sense to personal thoughts or findings, without pretending to develop theory or to disseminate ideas. PP provides an opportunity to share these thoughts and get a feedback in an informal manner. PP is one among many knowledge management portals, but it seems to be unique in its goals and does justice to the origins of participatory development.

+ share