Topic 1 Participatory Methdologies

A methodology is the set of steps to reach a concrete result.

Participatory Methodologies (PM) are “methodologies that make it easier for people to share the knowledge they have about the world, with the aim of reflecting on possible alternatives to the problems that have been previously identified together”. PMs seek to encourage people to acquire different ways of acquiring knowledge -intuitive and relational- and in this way, they can have a broader vision of reality.

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A participatory methodology promotes a sense of community and makes it perceived as competent. In that sense, PMs:

  • Although they originate in the field of social research, their use does not have to be limited to research.
  • Its intention is always difficult and rarely valued: to rely on people as a source of information and as a source of reflection on problems, involving them in solving them.
  • If we work to achieve goals of change, we must take into account very seriously the meaning that people give to things, based on listening to all the positions and strategies that are at stake (no one has the whole truth, this is built collectively). Only in this way we can break with dominant paradigms.
  • Therefore, the PM consider people as reflective beings, who think and do, linked to their environment, with history and the things that surround them.
  • And they try to offer adequate tools so that individuals can think of alternatives based on the diagnosis.
  • Questioning the monopoly on solutions by the expert. It is not that his judgment and wisdom are rejected, it is that all the actors adopt a posture of synergistic cooperation.


People are “alienated”, they don’t know, they don’t see.

We bring out the shared meanings from which social practices take place.

It starts from an unequal knowledge-power relationship. From my place of knowledge-power I devalue the knowledge of the other.

Horizontal power relations are fostered. The other enriches me from his place and his vision.

Knowledge is in the hands of experts.

Knowledge is built from that provided by thematic experts and experiential experts.

Be aware of others.

It is built with the others.

You speak on behalf of others, you think for others.

It speaks from one.

Projects are generated based on what is believed that the others need.

A common project is built.

The change is based solely on the knowledge acquired by specialists.

Change is based on relationships.

You are invited to participate in “our project”.

Participation in the definition of a problem, in the preparation and management of the project.

Table taken from Democracy in Action. A vision from participatory methodologies. Authors: Ernesto Ganuza, Lucrecia Olivari, Pablo Pano, Luz Buitrago, Concepción Lorenzana, 2010.

PMs are based on three basic principles. First, it is not a product of a fashion or of the modern era, since they present a long historical journey. Second, they are not designed for the sole purpose of being fun, but there is a pedagogical and didactic foundation to support popular education. Third, these pedagogical foundations have been tested by different teaching schools and communities “in action”.

PMs are more successful when stakeholder has a strong approach and shared leadership. Likewise, the methodology to plan or manage a specific project is the one that responds to the objectives, values and personal capacities of the participants who are part of a process.