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Glossary of community development tools



Each of the methods described are the tools with which social scientists and other development practitioners encourage and enable participation.


  • Some tools are designed to inspire creative solutions, others are used for investigative or analytic purposes. One tool might be useful for sharing or collecting information, whereas another is an activity for transferring that information into plans or actions. These brief descriptions are intended to provide the reader with a glossary of terminology that practitioners of participatory development use to describe the tools of their trade.

  • Access to resources. A series of participatory exercises that allows development practitioners to collect information and raises awareness among beneficiaries about the ways in which access to resources varies according to gender and other important social variables. This userfriendly tool draws on the everyday experience of participants and is useful to men, women, trainers, project staff, and field-workers.

  • Analysis of tasks. A gender analysis tool that raises community awareness about the distribution of domestic, market, and community activities according to gender and familiarizes planners with the degree of role flexibility that is associated with different tasks. Such information and awareness is necessary to prepare and execute development interventions that will benefit both men and women.

  • Focus group meetings. Relatively lowcost, semistructured, small group (four to twelve participants plus a facilitator) consultations used to explore peoples' attitudes, feelings, or preferences, and to build consensus. Focus group work is a compromise between participantobservation, which is less controlled, lengthier, and more indepth, and preset interviews, which are not likely to attend to participants' own concerns.

  • Force field analysis. A tool similar to one called "Story With a Gap," which engages people to define and classify goals and to make sustainable plans by working on thorough "before and after" scenarios. Participants review the causes of problematic situations, consider the factors that influence the situation, think about solutions, and create alternative plans to achieve solutions. The tools are based on diagrams or pictures, which minimize language and literacy differences and encourage creative thinking.

  • Health-seeking behavior. A culturally sensitive tool for generation of data about health care and healthrelated activities. It produces qualitative data about the reasons behind certain practices as well as quantifiable information about beliefs and practices. This visual tool uses pictures to minimize language and literacy differences.

  • Logical Framework or LogFRAME. A matrix that illustrates a summary of project design, emphasizing the results that are expected when a project is successfully completed. These results or outputs are presented in terms of objectively verifiable indicators. The Logical Framework approach to project planning, developed under that name by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has been adapted for use in participatory methods such as ZOPP (in which the tool is called a project planning matrix) and TeamUP.

  • Mapping. A generic term for gathering in pictorial form baseline data on a variety of indicators. This is an excellent starting point for participatory work because it gets people involved in creating a visual output that can be used immediately to bridge verbal communication gaps and to generate lively discussion. Maps are useful as verification of secondary source information, as training and awarenessraising tools, for comparison, and for monitoring of change. Common types of maps include health maps, institutional maps (Venn diagrams), and resource maps.

  • Needs assessment. A tool that draws out information about people's varied needs, raises participants' awareness of related issues, and provides a framework for prioritizing needs. This sort of tool is an integral part of gender analysis to develop an understanding of the particular needs of both men and women and to do comparative analysis.

  • Participant observation is a fieldwork technique used by anthropologists and sociologists to collect qualitative and quantitative data that leads to an indepth understanding of peoples' practices, motivations, and attitudes. Participant observation entails investigating the project background, studying the general characteristics of a beneficiary population, and living for an extended period among beneficiaries, during which interviews, observations, and analyses are recorded and discussed.

  • Pocket charts. Investigative tools that use pictures as stimuli to encourage people to assess and analyze a given situation. Through a "voting' process, participants use the chart to draw attention to the complex elements of a development issue in an uncomplicated way. A major advantage of this tool is that it can be put together with whatever local materials are available.

  • Preference ranking. Also called direct matrix ranking, an exercise in which people identify what they do and do not value about a class of objects (for example, tree species or cooking fuel types). Ranking allows participants to understand the reasons for local preferences and to see how values differ among local groups. Understanding preferences is critical for choosing appropriate and effective interventions.

  • Role playing. Enables people to creatively remove themselves from their usual roles and perspectives to allow them to understand choices and decisions made by other people with other responsibilities. Ranging from a simple story with only a few characters to an elaborate street theater production, this tool can be used to acclimate a research team to a project setting, train trainers, and encourage community discussions about a particular development intervention.

  • Seasonal diagrams or seasonal calendars. Show the major changes that affect a household, community, or region within a year, such as those associated with climate, crops, labor availability and demand, livestock, prices, and so on. Such diagrams highlight the times of constraints and opportunity, which can be critical information for planning and implementation.

  • Secondary data review. Also called desk review, an inexpensive, initial inquiry that provides necessary contextual background. Sources include academic theses and dissertations, annual reports, archival materials, census data, life histories, maps, project documents, and so on.

  • Semistructured interviews. Also called conversational interviews, interviews that are partially structured by a flexible interview guide with a limited number of preset questions. This kind of guide ensures that the interview remains focused on the development issue at hand while allowing enough conversation so that participants can introduce and discuss topics that are relevant to them. These tools are a deliberate departure from survey-type interviews with lengthy, predetermined questionnaires.

  • Sociocultural profiles. Detailed descriptions of the social and cultural dimensions that in combination with technical, economic, and environmental dimensions serve as a basis for design and preparation of policy and project work. Profiles include data about the type of communities, demographic characteristics, economy and livelihood, land tenure and natural resource control, social organization, factors affecting access to power and resources, conflict resolution mechanisms, and values and perceptions. Together with a participation plan, the sociocultural profile helps ensure that proposed projects and policies are culturally and socially appropriate and potentially sustainable.

  • Surveys. A sequence of focused, predetermined questions in a fixed order, often with predetermined, limited options for responses. Surveys can add value when they are used to identify development problems or objectives, narrow the focus or clarify the objectives of a project or policy, plan strategies for implementation, and monitor or evaluate participation. Among the survey instruments used in Bank work are firm surveys, sentinel community surveillance, contingent valuation, and priority surveys.

  • Tree diagrams. Multipurpose, visual tools for narrowing and prioritizing problems, objectives, or decisions. Information is organized into a treelike diagram that includes information on the main issue, relevant factors, and influences and outcomes of these factors. Tree diagrams are used to guide design and evaluation systems, to uncover and analyze the underlying causes of a particular problem, or to rank and measure objectives in relation to one another.

  • Village meetings. Meetings with many uses in participatory development, including information sharing and group consultation, consensus building, prioritization and sequencing of interventions, and collaborative monitoring and evaluation. When multiple tools such as resource mapping, ranking, and focus groups have been used, village meetings are important venues for launching activities, evaluating progress, and gaining feedback on analysis.

  • Wealth ranking. Also known as wellbeing ranking or vulnerability analysis, a technique for the rapid collection and analysis of specific data on social stratification at the community level. This visual tool minimizes literacy and language differences of participants as they consider factors such as ownership of or use rights to productive assets, lifecycle stage of members of the productive unit, relationship of the productive unit to locally powerful people, availability of labor, and indebtedness.

  • Workshops. Structured group meetings at which a variety of key stakeholder groups, whose activities or influence affect a development issue or project, share knowledge and work toward a common vision. With the help of a workshop facilitator, participants undertake a series of activities designed to help them progress toward the development objective (consensus building, information sharing, prioritization of objectives, team building, and so on). In project as well as policy work, from preplanning to evaluation stages, stakeholder workshops are used to initiate, establish, and sustain collaboration.

date created:22/4/2003 15:22:30

last updated:17/7/2003 12:27:08



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