Participatory methods in the analysis of poverty: a critical review

Date: Jan, 2001
ODID Working Paper No. 62
Author(s): Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi (QEH)

This paper reviews and analyses the literature on participatory methods in poverty analysis. The popularity of participatory poverty assessments has greatly increased in the last decade, and a growing number of development agents is adopting some form of participatory methodology. This spread however seems to be possible even without a shared understanding of what participation stands for. This paper starts by introducing the broad lines of the debate on participation, before focusing more specifically on participatory methods in poverty analysis. After having discussed the tools as well as the insights they provide, some recent evidence comparing participatory and non-participatory methods is presented. Such literature allow to highlight both the strengths and the weaknesses of participatory assessments, as well as opening the way for new approaches integrating elements of both. In the last analysis, however, the challenge to the non-extractive nature of the methodology, posed by the transposition of participatory techniques from the project context in which they were developed to the policy one, remains serious and poses questions on what "listening to the voices of the poor" means.

ODID Author(s)