, Volume 11, Issue 2-3, pp 4-25

Participatory research and the race to save the planet: Questions, critique, and lessons from the field

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Abstract

Participation has been widely touted as “the answer” to a number of problems facing sustainable development programs. It is not enough, however, to involve rural people as workers and informants in research and planning endeavors defined by outsiders. A truly collaborative approach will depend upon our ability to broaden our definitions of research and participation, to accommodate a wide spectrum of land users and local knowledge, and to expand our repertoire of research methods. This paper presents a critique of facile approaches to participation, outlines a more inclusive framework for who participates on what terms, and reviews a variety of methods that address the complex realities of rural livelihoods and landscapes. The final section of the paper suggests a multi-institutional model that combines the complementary strengths of several types of organizations in participatory field research and planning.