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Participatory workshops

Participatory workshops are also known as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) or Participatory Learning and Action (PLA). Robert Chambers and others have developed a wealth of materials for organising and facilitating participatory workshops. These are meetings which enable local people to analyse, share and enhance their knowledge to plan, manage and evaluate development projects and programmes. Visual aids – such as mapping, videos, illustrations, timelines, card sorting and ranking, Venn diagrams, seasonal calendar diagramming and body maps are often used in participatory workshops to engage participants and capture knowledge. They are often an effective means of getting participants to reflect on issues and their own personal experiences. These workshops also pay particular attention to group dynamics and breaking down distinctions between ‘uppers’ – those with power, standing, influence etc within a community – and ‘lowers’ – those with less power, influence and standing within a community. One of these activities is called Saboteur. The group divides into threes, with two as speakers and one as a saboteur. The speakers discuss a topic of their choice. The saboteur then interrupts, disrupts and distracts in any way. The speakers do not necessarily know that the third person is meant to sabotage their discussion. The group is then asked to reflect and discuss the experience.