The Quality of Participation: Critical Reflections on Decision
Making, Context and Goals
Contributing to rural transformations and sustainable natural resource management through participatory action research requires researchers to reflect on the research process. The challenge is to critically assess the kind(s) of participation that are appropriate to the different stages of the research cycle. Another way to phrase this is to ask what is good practice in participatory research and development. There are three complementary entry points for investigating this question: the decision making process, the research context, and the aims of participation.
Participatory research can take a variety of different forms in terms of who participates, how and when, and who decides about what, how and when. In any given participatory research activity, usually more than one form is employed, either consciously or unconsciously. Consultative forms of participation mean that researchers only consult with others (e.g., farmers) in order to make decisions about (community) needs and to design research interventions. Collegial forms imply the active involvement and equal decision making power of others in conducting the whole research process (from identification of the research problem or opportunity to final assessment), such as the involvement of