If participatory methodologies and techniques are aimed at provoking and generating changes through awareness, dialogue and collective construction, their implications are to assume a change in people, in the relationships they maintain in groups and in the ways of being, living and feeling part of society.
When we talk about groups or communities, we refer to all their members and people, without distinction or exclusion of any of them. A group or community is not an entity that exists by itself, independently of the people who constitute it. It is these (and their interactions and accomplishments) that make up the group. The group, therefore, refers to the fact that among its members there is a certain structure of relationships that closely links them to each other, therefore, without its members, the group would not exist.
That is why, ultimately, there are the individuals, the people, with their starting points, their motivations, their needs, the assessment they make of themselves, their relationship and interaction skills… and the roles that we give them. And although in social organizations or social action entities, a large part of the resources are directed at people in a situation of poverty or social exclusion, and although the participation processes that are generally set in motion are especially intended to favour their social inclusion, this does not mean that participatory methodologies and techniques are resources exclusively designed for them (as if they were special techniques for special people). On the contrary, if the objective is to mobilize community resources and improve the contexts and situations in which poverty, inequality and exclusion occur, we would be talking about processes and techniques that facilitate the recognition of all , the feeling of belonging to a common collective project and the personal involvement of all the members of a community for the establishment of a system of relationships, interactions and arrangements based on solidarity, interdependence, reciprocity and mutual cooperation.
Therefore, in the activities, in the selection of the most appropriate methodology and techniques for the creation of sustainable participation processes, it is essential to take into account as a starting point the people involved in the process and, therefore, their personal involvement:
Thus, participatory techniques are intended to work on a fundamental aspect related to personal involvement and which is key when talking about inclusion: motivation.
Personal motivation is influenced by many elements WHICH MUST BE ADDRESSED in each of the phases of the participatory process and WHICH CAN BE ADDRESSED through participatory techniques:
We call reinforcement any stimulus that increases the probability that a given response will occur. To be effective, it has to be applied right after the behaviour you want to enhance (positive reinforcement) or eliminate (negative reinforcement). Reinforcements can be material (money, food...), activity (doing something that is pleasant) or social (verbal praise, congratulations...). Reinforcement influences motivations by mobilizing behaviour and increasing the probability that the desired response will occur when it is balanced (neither excessive nor insufficient), when it fits within the subject's expectations, when it serves as an indicator of the desired behaviour, and when it is neither inconsistent nor arbitrary.
The implementation of techniques that ensure the reinforcement of people within groups supposes a form of social recognition, of significance of the capacities and abilities of the person, balancing relationships from principles of inclusion, equity, alterity and security, increasing the feeling of belonging to a larger community, positive interactions, the perception of influence in the group... and, therefore, participation and mobilization.
The perception of control is an essential element for survival and adaptation to the natural and social environment, configuring itself as the basic unit of any thought and action. The perception of control functions as an instrument of cognitive defence and control in the face of uncertainty and the randomness of social events.
There are people who attribute the keys to that control to aspects that depend on themselves (will, effort, own actions...); others think that external factors condition control (luck, destiny, interventions by others, “forces”, divine will). The way of perceiving the keys to control is learned and variable over time, in different contexts (personal life, employment...) and also depending on the characteristics of each personality.
The perception of personal control entails the fulfilment of the following conditions:
Let us remember the proposals of the “Ladder of Participation”. A person will not feel motivated to participate if they feel, or if they perceive that the final decisions depend on others, even if a consultation has previously been carried out to gather their opinions.
Feeling that you have no control over your life is very demotivating. Knowing that what we achieve is not in our hands, depending on other people, a professional, a director, a program, a politician, does not help to get involved in the process or in one's own destiny.
The positive effects of promoting a sense of control among people, both within organizations and in the community itself, are sufficiently proven. The central idea is to provide the person with the possibility of choosing situations in which he can experience that his efforts are useful. A clear relationship is found between the perception of control and well-being.
Through participatory techniques, we can generate learning and reinforcement situations based on positive experiences where the group acts as a facilitator. These positive experiences help to break with the causal attributions that are behind helplessness and promote a relationship and development approach based on the identification and mobilization of people's skills. All this contributes to developing self-determination, autonomy, a sense of power and well-being, and with them, the participation of people in the group and in social life, since they have more tools to cope with stress and frustration, among others. Learned helplessness is just that, learned. Therefore, it can also be unlearned. And for this it is important to work on three issues:
Self-efficacy (García Aguilera, s/f) is the personal conviction that one can successfully perform a certain behaviour required in a given situation. With the necessary skills and sufficient incentives, the expectation of self-efficacy determines the behaviour and its perseverance. The feeling of one's own efficacy has a great stimulating value. It is accompanied by a feeling of security, which stimulates action. The perception of efficacy is based on:
Image taken from http://www2.uned.es/TICC/Cap.1/auto-eficacia.html
What kind of expectations of changing their situation do the people and communities with whom you work have? And to where? From what paradigm does your development model move? What expectations do they have regarding their possibilities of group and social participation? What do they hope to find? What social objectives do they set as citizens and as members of a community?
Knowing what you want to achieve is a first step for participation in the group and social sphere. But on many occasions we ask people to get involved in participation programs that we believe are appropriate for them without knowing what they really want and we confuse our professional desires with what the person wants for himself or the pace at which he wants to join in participatory processes.
It is for this reason that it is important to identify, within the life itinerary of the person, which are their objectives and their centres of interest in terms of participation, sense of community and citizenship. And, from these centres of interest, develop the possible itineraries and contents, the related learning with which to increase their perception of control, self-efficacy and strengthen their particular motivations, directing them towards others of a group nature.
What is the value that each person assigns to a stimulus or objective? For authors like Vroom, it is the anticipated satisfaction of a stimulus. These assessments act as drivers of behaviour, that is, they direct the person towards achieving the goal, and are related to all the personal factors seen above.
“Be useful, transform reality, change unjust structures, believe in solidarity, be a better person, find oneself, fight for the common good…” They are values that move the individual to collective participation and that are combined with others that are less altruistic or supportive: “occupy free time, professional interest, relate to others, curiosity, novelty, because it looks good or they have asked me to, for unmet personal needs...”
Initially, all these values are valid. What is interesting is how, from the group, they can be enriched and guided towards a shared sense of community, where the person feels that the objectives of participation:
Beliefs are those actions or ideas that have been accepted or taken as true, according to some social reasons, and that vary according to a certain context. In this way, when there is a conviction (of which we are not always aware) we tend to act according to that conviction as if it were true. It is not questioned, it is not asked why it is so, the conscious or unconscious rules or patterns are simply followed.