Pilot projects and participation

Joba, Jharkhand, India

Originally uploaded by Find Your Feet

It’s great to be able to welcome in the New Year knowing that, over the coming five years, we will be able to support even more people in India to build a better future for themselves.

The BLF recently awarded us a grant of £467,680 of our PAHAL project in Jharkhand, India! This will enable us to work with 6,000 women in four districts of Jharkhand over the course of five years, reaching an estimated 24,690 beneficiaries. Visit our website to find out more about the PAHAL project.

What particularly stands out for me is that this five year project is built on the success of a two year pilot project funded entirely by generous trusts and supporters.

Over the Christmas holidays I read Robert Chambers’ ‘Whose reality counts?: Putting the last first.’ This book, which was first published in 1997, presented a radical challenge to all concerned with international development. He argues that many past errors in development have flowed from imbalanced power relationships between development ‘professionals’ and local communities. In order to really empower local communities through genuine participation in development processes there is a need for “personal, professional and institutional change.

Inspired by this book I went on to read “The Aid Chain: Coercion and Commitment in Development NGOs,” published in 2007. The researchers use country case studies to look at the chain of aid money from donors in the UK, to UK NGOs, to partners and field offices in Uganda and South Africa. They draw the conclusion that increasing donor concern with rational management tools such as the logframe are limiting the possibility of local communities really participating in the process of formulating projects.

Reading the book it therefore seemed to me that, whilst rhetoric over the past few years has placed increasing emphasis on ‘participation’ in development, institutional change has been pulling in the other direction.

By running pilot projects prior to securing funding from institutional donors we have the time and the flexibility to develop a good working relationship with local partner organisations. We also have the time to really listen to communities, making sure that our projects respond to their vision for a developed community, not to what we think a developed community should look like.


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  1. […] a blog post I wrote earlier this year ( ‘pilot projects and participation’ ) I referred to a book I read called “The Aid Chain – Coercion and Commitment in Development […]

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