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close this bookParticipatory Methods in Community-based Coastal Resource Management - Volume 1 - Introductory Papers (IIRR, 1998)
close this folderGeneral guidelines for using participatory tools
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View the documentGuidelines for facilitating groups
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A large number of participatory approaches for assessing local conditions, problems and opportunities have been developed. This book provides a "basket" of tools and techniques for meaningful community participation in a wide range of CBCRM activities. These tools can be used to help mobilize and organize local people around issues they consider important.


Although the tools are generally applicable to all coastal communities, the following guidelines should be taken into careful consideration when choosing and using the tools presented:

Ö Set your objectives first so that you can select the most appropriate tool. You will not use a hammer to catch a fish. Be conscious in selecting and adapting tools that fit your objectives.

Ö Build on previous information gathered. As each tool is completed, the results generated will give you an idea which tool to use next to expand on the information gathered.


For example, a timeline might yield information about previous interventions made by other agencies. A venn diagram could then be used to further analyze what these agencies achieved or why they failed and what the community thinks about the agency and their activities.

Ö Cross-check and probe to ensure reliability of information. Use different sources of information, different tools and ask probing questions to ensure reliability.

Ö Analyze and validate on the spot. Immediate analysis and validation of information gathered by those present is an integral part of participatory methods. Cross refer between tools for more in-depth analysis. Hold a community validation meeting to have the information and the analysis validated. This can become the basis for important community decisions.

Ö Avoid collecting information that is not necessary. It wastes everybody's time and effort. You have to decide when you have sufficient accuracy and quantity, or when discrepancies have been sorted out.


Ö Avoid bias. Actively include members of the community who may otherwise not have enough opportunity to speak, e.g., women, the elderly, children or those living far away. Recognize your own biases, mistakes or omissions and avoid making value judgements about others. Avoid generalisations based on limited information and too few informants.

Ö Listen to the community leaders but recognize that they may be the local elites and have their own biases.

Ö Acknowledge the value of indigenous knowledge, skills and practice. Recognize that this is a two-way learning process. The community might have their own way of naming and doing things that may serve to enhance the use of the tools. Always use or adopt local names and concepts whenever possible. (Refer to topic on building on indigenous knowledge.)


Ö Be creative. Shells, stones, seeds, leaves, twigs, or even the ground can be used when applying the tools. Innovate on the suggested approaches to suit the situation, environment and culture. Learning should be fun.

Guidelines for facilitating groups

Most of the methods presented will appear to be facilitated by one person but several people can work together. Preference should be given to having a local resident - who has been trained or has experience - serve as the facilitator. The use of an interdisciplinary team helps to draw out and document different aspects of the subject.

The following are some of the standard operating procedures when facilitating groups and/or participatory sessions:

Ö Always begin by introducing facilitators and participants.

Ö If the community is particular with certain religious or cultural practices, start the session with a prayer or appropriate ritual.


Ö Use the local language or ask the participants if they can understand and are comfortable with the language you're speaking. If not, find an interpreter and allow time for translation.

Ö Start the session by explaining the nature and objective of the activity or tool to be used. Describe the output expected at the end of the activity.

Ö Explain the process that the group will undergo, and the amount of time involved. If certain roles will be assigned, explain clearly how the roles will be played (e.g., role of observers in the manta tow technique, role of volunteers in key informant interviews or monitoring of mangrove projects/sanctuary).

Ö Document discussions and outputs. Leave a copy for the community and/or participants. Assign a documentor; the facilitator should not be tasked to document.

Ö Be resourceful and creative. Use various audio-visual aids to help make discussions more interesting and effective. Use local materials whenever possible.


Ö Always be sensitive to participants' needs. If the participants are becoming restless, take a break. Be flexible. If something comes up that was not anticipated, trust the process. Do not feel obliged to follow previously- prepared guidelines rigidly.

Ö Choose an appropriate time and place for the community to participate. Avoid times when important activities are being done. The setting should be familiar to all and informal.

Ö Do not rush. Activities can last from half an hour to half a day and the whole process in the CBCRM cycle can take a very long time. The whole process can be more effective if done at the speed of the community and not to fit the facilitator's schedules.

Ö Encourage participation. Draw responses from each participant, as much as possible. Control or neutralize participants who try to dominate discussions.

Ö Always listen to answers and do not interrupt. Respect the opinions given. Repeat responses if needed to further clarify points raised.


Ö Always include names of participants and date of activity on the output.

Ö Settle disagreements through dialogue and consensus-building. Clarify contentious issues and get the opinion of everybody, if possible. Exhaust all arguments until contending parties are convinced or until they change their views or one party withdraws its position, and a compromise or consensus is reached. Both participants and facilitators must have the patience to go through this long, but rewarding process.

Ö Be gender-sensitive. Be conscious of your language and gestures. Group men and women separately if the issue to be discussed is sensitive to either or simply as a way of identifying various perspectives. Avoid jokes that are offensive to either or both sexes.


People do not live day to day by considering in sequence ecology, economics, equity, nutrition, health, etc. Life is holistic and complex. Do not artificially dissect it!

While working with a community...

Ö Foster the right attitude. Be humble. Do not act like you are more knowledgeable than the community members. Remember, they too have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to share. Do not be arrogant. Be aware of your body language as it can give away your feelings. Be modest and friendly. Always observe and adapt.


Ö Facilitate learning. The community does the information gathering, planning, implementing, monitoring and decision-making themselves. Their ideas and opinions, much more their decisions, should be given primacy over others, especially "outsiders". Facilitate, do not impose.

Ö Fit into the community and establish rapport. Follow the local dress codes, make jokes, share meals. Be sensitive to the local culture (i.e., religious rituals, community affairs). Put people at ease and do not set yourself apart or act superior.


Tips for teams

· An interdisciplinary team requires its own social organization and set of relationships.

· Team work requires work and patience.

· "Disciplines" view the world in different slices. Information collected in "slices" must be pieced together.

· Listen to the people in the community; they do not work and play in "disciplines".

· The team should develop its own group norms, for example, they should not be seen to be disagreeing with one another in front of the participants or community.

· Roles and responsibilities should be assigned and agreed on in advance.

· Regular meetings should be held to discuss progress and issues.

· Everyone should know what the other team members are working on.

· During team formation, pre-testing of methods will help build relationships.

Prepared by Karen Hampson