Cover Image
close this bookParticipatory Methods in Community-based Coastal Resource Management - Volume 1 - Introductory Papers (IIRR, 1998)
close this folderGeneral guidelines for using participatory tools
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGuidelines for facilitating groups
View the documentWhile working with a community...


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.