The Practice of Participation and the Capability Approach

  • John Hammock
Part of the Rethinking International Development series book series (RID)


In this chapter, John Hammock reflects on the practical challenges of building bridges between the capability approach and the participatory movement from a non-governmental organization (NGO) perspective. Although Sen rarely considers grassroots participation directly, the concepts that underpin his approach (agency, democracy, freedom and the expansion of capabilities local people have reason to value) necessitate participation. Participation, however, requires people to ‘get involved with politics’ and ‘runs up against institutions, values and power’. Hammock identifies two trends that undermine effective participation—the politics of ‘securitization’ and poverty alleviation as ‘big business’. In light of this, Hammock argues that an effective practitioners of the capability approach needs to take on board seven key lessons relating to (1) politics, power, and personalities; (2) ownership and control of the process and outputs; (3) recognition of winners and losers; (4) understanding power dynamics between outsiders and the community; (5) awareness that change takes time and requires long-term commitment; (6) solidarity as a practical necessity (which entails active involvement at grassroots level, sticking with the community during hard times, and recognizing the rights of people); and (7) actively listening to local communities and building on their capabilities.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Hammock
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI)University of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Fletcher School of Law and DiplomacyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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