An effort to enhance meaningful participation of the community in project design

Enhancing meaningful participation of the community in project design


Community participation has been perceived in as many different ways as practiced in the development sector. Some consider community participation as involving the community at the receivers end to ensure that the ultimate beneficiaries know what they will be receiving and can contribute in designing a client centric model. While others believe in involving the community at some stages of decision making, some take a step further in ensuring that the community takes the ownership of the program in the long run. The ultimate step, which any policy maker would like to dream of is to help the community to run the program by themselves with little or no contribution from the funders and other organizations.


Programs are planned by managers, consultants and development professionals within four walls and then to ensure quality implementation of such programs community is involved at different stages as and where ever required. We know that it is always better if we involve the beneficiaries’ right from the stage of planning rather than involving them only in the implementation stage. This is because in the later case the program needs to be implemented for a considerable length of time to test the applicability and quality of activities and strategies, where as in the first case we can ensure such things right from the beginning and then have interim checks. Programs which have ensured involvement of community right from the beginning have come up with lesser gaps and bottlenecks and have been successful in enhancing community ownership.

The community

The term community is often linked up with the ultimate beneficiaries of a program, whereas in most cases there are other persons and institutions that directly or indirectly influence the program delivery system and the program as a whole. Apart from the receivers of any service people staying in the same location or having a stake in the program in any ways also comes under community.

The present study deals with the following communities:

  • NGO/CBO members who are involved in the process of planning and implementation
  • Important and critical stakeholders like the customs, immigration department, embassies, BSF, Police, Army etc. who have interests and can influence the program objectives and outputs
  • Other Civil Society Organizations like SHGs, Panchayat bodies, women’s groups, local clubs, political bodies, religious groups and so on, who

Process and Methodology

The process usually followed by policy makers and program managers is a simple sharing session of the project plan with a few selected beneficiaries with little or no scope for any change in the final plan and strategies. This seems a quite customary initiative to show the funders that the minimum criteria of community participation are adhered to or to give the project a community centric looks superficially.

The process proposed to be followed in EMPHASIS is to approach each level of community concerned, with a pruned and simplified form of the program plan (specially the Logical Framework) so that incorporations related to feasibility and community needs can be made at the right time and the design can be made as per community needs.

The SALT technique can be applied to assess the different levels of community participation in developmental programs, which will ultimately assist us in helping the community tailor their own program as per their need.

The following exercise can be carried out at the initiation to assess the different levels of community participation existing in the concerned community. This particular step will help us to know the baseline level of community participation so that after a couple of years of implementation the then level of community participation can be measured in quantity and quality.

Table: Shows the framework for assessment of level of community participation

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

Inclusion of community

The community is not aware of any involvement in development programs meant for them

The community is aware that they can contribute in programs meant for them

The community can participate with the program implementers in running the program

The program managers share the program status with the community

The community is aware that they are the main stakeholders of the program and are able to take decisions for themselves

Involvement of community in development programs

Community bluntly receives services but has no say in the quality

Community contributes some resources but cannot contribute to decision making

Community takes decision at the ground level

Community influences the program managers in decision making and even has a say on Monitoring and evaluation

The community has full ownership on the program and is actually a community run program

  1. In case of NGO members the log frame will be kept for open discussions inviting for comments and suggestions. This is planned to incorporate the experience the NGOs have from their field visits and community interactions.
  2. To involve stakeholders like BSF, customs, immigration personnel, police etc. the log frame can be placed for open discussion for a participatory review. In this case only those portions of the log frame can be used for discussion, which is applicable for the concerned stakeholder. Translation of those portions can be made in local languages to make it more participatory in nature.
  3. For stakeholders such as Panchayat, women’s groups, local clubs, political bodies, religious groups, local influential persons etc. the specific portions of the log frame can be re-visited and important points of discussion can be taken out for conducting GDs/IDIs/FGDs with these stakeholders. Using the log frame as such won’t be of much help for ground level stakeholders as it is seen that participatory tools like GDs/FGDs/IDIs work best with this category of stakeholders.
  4. Feedback from the impact population such as peer educators, Key Informants and the mobile population can be included through the FGD approach, with preparing points of discussion from the log frame.

Tools used for the purpose

Several tools can be used for the exercise based upon the type of stakeholders selected, number of participants included and the nature of information to be gathered. For impact population and ground level stakeholders we would prefer to use the participatory tools like FGDs, GDs, resource mapping, vulnerability mapping, forced field analysis, impact diagrams, evaluation matrices, seasonal diagrams and so on. Whatever tools we use will have to be precise in terms with the issues of the log frame. It also has to simple at the same time for understanding the viewpoints of the community.


Keeping in mind the availability of time in the project the whole process needs to be simple and precise. As log frame provides a backbone to every program and based on which other important ensuing steps of program design takes place, it needs to be completed within a period of 15 days in case of EMPHASIS.

Expected outcome

It is expected that the log frame is designed taking into consideration of the viewpoints, concerns and suggestions of different if not all stakeholders, to design a program which is more feasible, simple and client oriented, which will enable the community to have full ownership and accountability.

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Comment by Laurence Gilliot on June 15, 2010 at 12:16pm
Dear Anupam,

Thanks for sharing this information with us and giving us the chance to learn from the Emphasis project.

I am wondering: What prevents you from letting the community design and implement the whole project with you as facilitator - support - advisor ? So, not only asking feedback from the community on your logical framework but trusting in their capacity to make their own logical framework? Trust that they can identify their concerns, assess their situation, choosing priorities and implementing their action plan?

I'm asking to better understand the reality and constraints you are working with.

Thank you,



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