Module 2 Understanding Participation


Much is said about participation in development projects, or in the implementation of solidarity actions. The reason is that many people realize that most community work or volunteer projects fail or fall far short of their initial goals due to the lack of real participation of the people for whom the project was carried out (“the beneficiaries, recipients, users, participants”).

Also, many organizations and their teams still see community development or social intervention as a simple linear process, where you go from situation “A” to situation “B” in a straight line. If we accept this approach, participation is perceived as a waste of time or as an instrument where the people involved is just that: recipients, users, clients…

Finally, on many occasions we find that participation is understood as a technique or dynamic that, applied in a timely or isolated manner, is able, by itself, of generating motivation, involvement, changes, etc. The result is usually specific actions that address participation in a superficial or symbolic way.

Therefore, there are many different definitions of participation. Some call participation, which for others is nothing more than manipulation or passivity of the people. The reality is that participation is not a fixed state: it is a process through which people can gain more or less degrees of participation (and with it, power, self-determination, autonomy, rights, implication, etc.) in the process of personal development or community intervention. In addition, if we link participation with the field of exclusion or social vulnerability, it would be especially interesting to see what it consists of, and how to develop it so that it is complete.