Importance of Participation

Despite some authors contesting that participation makes no difference, the importance of community participation is well established in the literature. Chamala (1995)[1] identified efficiency benefits from participation, stating that ‘involving stakeholders and empowering community participants in programs at all levels, from local to national, provide a more effective path for solving sustainable resource management issues’. Participation enhances project effectiveness through community ownership of development efforts and aids decision-making (Kelly and Van Vlaenderen 1995[2] ; Kolavalli and Kerr 2002[3] ). Price and Mylius (1991)[4] also identified local ownership of a project or program as a key to generating motivation for ecologically sustainable activities. The authors also identify the role of community participation in disseminating information amongst a community, particularly local knowledge, that leads to better facilitation of action (Price and Mylius 1991[4] ; Stiglitz 2002[5] ). Kelly (2001)[6] identified that participation results in learning, and learning is often a prerequisite for changing behavior and practices.

Gow and Vansant (1983)[7] identified four affirmations that summarize the importance of participation in development:

  • People organize best around problems they consider most important
  • Local people tend to make better economic decisions and judgments in the context of their own environment and circumstances
  • Voluntary provision of labor, time, money and materials to a project is a necessary condition for breaking patterns of dependency and passivity
  • The local control over the amount, quality and benefits of development activities helps make the process self-sustaining (cited in (Botchway 2001) page 136)[8] .

White (1981)[9] identified a number of beneficial reasons for community participation: with participation, more will be accomplished, and services can be provided more cheaply. Participation: has an intrinsic value for participants; is a catalyst for further development; encourages a sense of responsibility; guarantees that a felt need is involved; ensures things are done the right way; uses valuable indigenous knowledge; frees people from dependence on others’ skills; and makes people more conscious of the causes of their poverty and what they can do about it.

Curry (1993:33)[10] identifies that ‘policies that are sensitive to local circumstances will not only be more effective in taking the uniqueness of local social structure, economy, environmental, and culture into account, but also, through the involvement of the local community, will be more likely to be successful in their implementation. Communities that have a say in the development of policies for their locality are much more likely to be enthusiastic about their implementation’ (Curry, 1993: 33 cited in (Storey 1999) page 308)[11] . Golooba-Mutebi (2004)[12] found that participation has a role in enhancing civic consciousness and political maturity that makes those in office accountable.


  1. Chamala S (1995) Overview of participative action approaches in Australian land and water management. In ‘Participative approaches for Landcare’. (Ed. K Keith) pp. 5-42. (Australian Academic Press: Brisbane) ^
  2. Kelly K, Van Vlaenderen H (1995) Evaluating participation processes in community development. Evaluation and Program Planning 18, 371-383. ^
  3. Kolavalli S, Kerr J (2002) Scaling up participatory watershed development in India. Development & Change 33, 213-235. ^
  4. Price S, Mylius B (1991) ‘Social Analysis and Community Participation.’ ^
  5. Stiglitz JE (2002) Participation and development: perspectives from the comprehensive development paradigm. Review of Development Economics 6, 163-182. ^
  6. Kelly D (2001) ‘Community participation in rangeland management : a report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.’ (RIRDC: Barton ACT) ^
  7. Gow D, Vansant J (1983) Beyond the rhetoric of rural development participation: How can it be done? World Development 11, 427-443. ^
  8. Botchway K (2001) Paradox of Empowerment: Reflections on a Case Study from Northern Ghana. World Development 29, 135-153. ^
  9. White A (1981) ‘Community participation in water and sanitation : concepts, strategies and methods.’ (IRC: The Hague) ^
  10. Curry N (1993) Rural development in the 1990s: does prospect lie in retrospect? In ‘Rural Development in Ireland: a Challenge for the 1990s’. (Ed. J Greer). (Aldershot: Avebury) ^
  11. Storey D (1999) Issues of Integration, Participation and Empowerment in Rural Development: The Case of LEADER in the Republic of Ireland. Journal of Rural Studies 15, 307-315. ^
  12. Golooba-Mutebi F (2004) Reassessing popular participation in Uganda. Public Administration and Development In Press. ^
One comment on “Importance of Participation
  1. Simon Maabe says:

    This was indeed informative and assited in my quest to answer the question regarding the community participation and why one as a PM has to establish enabling structures for community participation in the project management process.

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