Participation as an End or Means

Buchy, Ross et al (2000)[1] have identified two emerging themes in the literature: participation as an approach, an ideology, a specific ethos for community development; and participation as a method, a set of guidelines and practices for involving communities or the general public in specific planning activities (Buchy, Ross et al. 2000)[1] page 6. This could be summarized as participation as an end or as a means to an end (Cleaver 1999[2] ; Goebel 1998[3] ; Lane 1995[4] ; Macnaghten and Jacobs 1997[5] ; Williams 2002[6] ). This discussion was also described by Nelson and Wright (1995)[7] as the distinction between instrumental and transformative participation and by Macnaghten and Jacobs (1997)[7] as value based or instrumental. The means or ends argument is comparable to efficiency, and empowerment and equity. Cleaver (1999)[7] identified efficiency as participation as a tool for achieving better project outcomes, and empowerment and equity as participation as a process which enhances the capacity of individuals to improve their own lives and facilitates social change to the advantage of disadvantaged or marginalized groups. But Bamberger (1988)[8] questioned whether efficiency and empowerment are complimentary or conflicting objectives. At a more superficial level Nelson and Wright (1995)[8] identified the common distinction between ‘participation as a means’, as to accomplish the aims of a project more efficiently, effectively or cheaply, as opposed to ‘participation as an end’ where the community or group sets up a process to control its own development. The authors go on to state that the extent of empowerment and involvement of the local population is more limited in the first approach than it is in the second (Nelson and Wright 1995)[8] .


  1. Buchy M, Ross H, Proctor W (2000) ‘Enhancing the information base on participatory approaches in Australian natural resource management: Commissioned research under the Land & Water Australia’s Social and Institutional Research Program.’ Land & Water Australia, Canberra. ^
  2. Cleaver F (1999) Paradoxes of participation: questioning participatory approaches to development. Journal of International Development 11, 597-612. ^
  3. Goebel A (1998) Process, perception and power: notes from ‘participatory’ research in a Zimbabwean resettlement area. Development & Change 29, 277-305. ^
  4. Lane J (1995) Non-governmental organisations and participatory development: the concept in theory versus the concept in practice. In ‘Power and Participatory Development’. (Ed. S Wright). (Intermediate Technology Publications: London) ^
  5. Macnaghten P, Jacobs M (1997) Public identification with sustainable development : Investigating cultural barriers to participation. Global Environmental Change 7, 5-24. ^
  6. Williams WD (2002) Community participation in conserving and managing inland waters. includes discussion about the unsuccessful attempt to prevent the damning of Lake Pedder in Tasmania. Aquatic Conservation : Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 12, 315-326. ^
  7. Nelson N, Wright S (1995) Participation and power. In ‘Power and participatory development’. (Ed. S Wright). (Intermediate Technology Publications: London) ^
  8. Bamberger M (1988) ‘The role of community participation in development planning and project management : report of a Workshop on Community Participation, held in Washington, D.C., September 22-25, 1986.’ (World Bank,: Washington, D.C.) ^

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