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planNet News 28 March 2012 

Toolbox: Philosophy of Participatory Development + Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)
News: 2nd Asia-Pacific Adaptation Forum 2012 & Rio+Social
Knowledge Bank: IGES Rio+20 Issue Briefs Series
Grant: Regional Media Workshop for Environmental Journalists from Asia
e-Learning: Business Ecosystems Learning (BET)
Quote of the Issue: Civilisation

planNet News
-SDplanNet-AP e-newsletter-

28 March 2012

SD Quote of the Issue
  Civilisation has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry. - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River  
SD Toolbox
Participatory Development & Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)
Participatory Development
Meaning: Participatory development has been broadly conceived to embrace the idea that all “stakeholders” who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. It has been more narrowly described as the extraction of local knowledge to design programs off-site.
Benefits: Participatory development promotes equity and accepts that the exercise of decision-making power at the local level is as legitimate as it is at the national level. Like an important political technology of our time called democracy, it champions the sovereignty of people over the sovereignty of a state. It is not just about meeting a people’s needs. It is about helping to create an environment where people can more effectively identify and address their own needs. It explicitly recognizes the significance of the political and social context in an effort to determine the roots of an enduring problem and to avoid harming those who should benefit. When decision makers take into account diverse stakeholder concerns and aspirations, they ensure a more demand-driven project design and therefore enhance the good governance of the projects.

One of the tools to implement Participatory Development is Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)
What is PRA?
More an eclectic situational style (the humble, learning outsider) than a rigid method, it is a short-cut method of data collection for action research, utilizing a range of techniques. It emphasises local knowledge and action by involving local people and outsiders from different sectors and disciplines. Outsiders facilitate local people in analyzing information, practicing critical self-awareness, taking responsibility and sharing their knowledge of life and conditions to share information and make their own appraisals and plans - to plan and to act. It is distinguished at its best by the use of local graphic representations and exercises created by the community.
Seven major techniques used in PRA
1.     Secondary data reviews: books, files, reports, news, articles, maps, etc.
2.     Observation: direct and participant observation, wandering, DIY (do-it-yourself) activities.
3.     Semi-structured interviews: this is an informal, guided interview session, where only some of the questions are pre-determined and new questions arise during the interview, in response to answers from those interviewed.
4.     Analytical game: this is a quick game to find out a group’s list of priorities, performances, ranking, scoring, or stratification.
5.     Stories and portraits: colorful description of the local situation, local history, trend analysis, etc.
6.     Diagrams: maps, aerial photos, transects, seasonal calendars, Venn diagram, flow diagram, historical profiles, ethno-history, timelines, etc.
7.     Workshop: local and outsiders are brought together to discuss the information and ideas intensively.

Emerging in the 1980s, PRA "proper" builds on the earlier RRA (Rapid Rural Appraisal) but goes much further. To RRA it adds some more radical activist perspectives, deriving principally from South Asia.
Principles of PRA
1.     Using optimal ignorance: this refers to the importance of knowing what it is not worth knowing. It avoids unnecessary details and irrelevant data. It does not measure more precisely than is needed. It optimizes trade-offs between quality, relevance, accuracy and timeliness.
2.     Offsetting biases: especially those of rural development tourism, by being relaxed and not rushing, listening not lecturing, probing instead of passing on to the next topic, being unimposing instead of important, and seeking out the poorer people, marginal and vulnerable groups, women, children, aged, and destitute - and their concerns. When you respect local intellectual and analytical capabilities, then you may feel you are starting to understand the people's culture.
3.     Triangulation: using more than one, and often three, sources of information to cross-check answers.
4.     Localisation: by learning from and with rural people: directly, on the site, and face-to-face, gaining from indigenous physical, technical and social knowledge. Also, extensive and creative use of local materials and representations encourages visual sharing and avoids imposing external representational conventions.
5.     Learning rapidly and progressively: with conscious exploration, flexible use of methods, opportunism, improvisation, iteration, and cross-checking, not following a blueprint program but adapting through a learning process.

Dangers and drawbacks
The term PRA itself can cause difficulties: PRA need not be rural, and sometimes is not even participatory, and is frequently used as a trendy label for standard RRA techniques. If PRA becomes part of the global development agenda, there are risks of:
"Hijacking": When this occurs, the PRA agenda is externally driven, and used to create legitimacy for projects, agencies and NGOs.
Formalism: The "PRA hit team" arrives in a local community to "do a PRA". This abrupt and exploitative approach is all too common in project-based PRAs where there is a deadline to meet, or in scheduled training courses. Despite its limitations, the concentrated power of formalization of community knowledge through participatory techniques can generate an impressive amount of information in a relatively short space of time, leaving time for more selective structured formal surveys where they are necessary and of value.
Disappointment: Local expectations can easily be raised. If nothing tangible emerges, local communities may come to see the process as a transient external development phenomenon. Lack of feedback to the community adds to the sense of disappointment.
Threats: The empowerment implications of PRA, and the power of its social analysis, can create threats to local vested interests, although less so than with PAR (Participatory Action Research).

Stay tuned for more Participatory Development tools in the next issue!
Sources: USAID’s Participatory Planning Guidelines for Water Services Project in Jiangsu, China , USAID’s Participatory Development as New Paradigm: The Transition of Development Professionalism , IISD’s Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) , Participatory  Rural  Appraisal  (PRA):  Challenges, Potentials  and  Paradigm , Bhandari, Bishnu. Participatory Rural Appraisal

SD News
2nd Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum
Held on 12-13 March 2012 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, the second Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum was two days full of vibrant knowledge sharing. Aimed at “Adaptation in Action” signifying a shift from deliberations to decisions, plans to policies and policies to practices, the forum brought together about 800 scientists, development workers, government officials, academicians, international organizations, students, and representatives from civil society at global, regional, national, and sub-national levels to discuss climate change adaptation topics that cut across governance issues, management, technology, and replicability.

The format consisted of a diverse range of plenary and keynote sessions, panel discussions, roundtables, thematic side events, marketplace, photo and poster exhibitions and a film festival. Keynote addresses were given by Dr. Bindu Lohani, Vice President, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Philippines and Dr. Johan Kuylenstierna, Executive Director Designate, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Sweden. Frontline findings and innovations on governance of adaptation decision-making; linking knowledge to adaptation action; opportunities and challenges in mainstreaming climate change adaptation into development; and experiences from the field were presented and discussed with interactive questions and answers between the panelists and audience in 24 panel sessions. “To build on what we already have”, “adapting what we've got” and “to change our mindsets to adapt” were three key messages from the expert speakers.

Twelve panels discussed examples of governance and linking climate adaptation knowledge to action. The panels promoted networking, and therefore maximized synergy, stimulated thoughts for actions and facilitated experiential learning that support the process of adapting to climate change. The sessions were facilitated by eminent climate scientists, adaptation experts and development planners from across the Asia-Pacific region.
›› Read Daily Bulletins with valuable findings and photos - Day 1 | Day 2

Rio+ Social
In a bid to include a larger global audience in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) dialogue, Mashable, 92nd Street Y, Ericsson, Energias de Portugal (EDP), LiveAD, and the UN Foundation are organizing Rio+Social, an “in-person gathering and global, online conversation on the potential of social media and technology to power a more innovative and better future for our world.”

›› Read more
›› Rio+Social Website

SD Knowledge Bank
IGES's Rio+20 Issue Briefs Series

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) has launched the IGES Rio+20 Issue Brief Series as a contribution to the negotiations on the outcome document from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).
››  Issue Briefs Series    Volume 1: What are Sustainable Development Goals?
                                       Volume 2: Building resilience and reducing risk from natural disasters: Essentials of 21st century sustainable development
                                       Volume 3: Applying EPR in developing countries
                                       Volume 4: Global Resource Crisis or Sustainable Resource Management? Proposals towards Resource-efficient Global Economy

SD Calendar
Webinar: Get Rio: Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication
3 April 2012

20 years after the historic Rio Earth Summit, the world is again coming together to definite our path to the future, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication was defined as one of the overarching goals of the conference. But what is a green economy? Can a green economy be the path to universal human well-being?
This will be held in April 2012 on the theme: Development-centred globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development
Food security – how do we feed 9 billion people in 2050?
11 April 2012

This debate is based on the fact that the projected increase in human population size, combined with the uneven distribution of resources, will put unprecedented pressure on sustainable development. It focuses on determining what options are available for finding a balance between the demands of a growing population and maintaining an environment that can provide the essential services, food, water and raw materials for a sustainable future.
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is intended to raise awareness of the potential for the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. The 17th of May marks the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union. The theme of this year's WTISD is "Women and Girls in ICT".  
Rio for People: Strengthening People's Capacity for Genuine Sustainable Development
11-13 April 2012
Hanoi, Vietnam

The Green Economy, premised on the commodification of nature and ecosystem services, allows for business as usual and very well suits the interests of the corporate sector, while the world’s most affected people, especially those from the South, who have real sustainable solutions in their hands and can thus respond to calls for a ‘change in patterns of production and consumption’ remain left out. The conference will be a research-guided capacity development exercise for grassroots organizations from the South for a coordinated advocacy and engagement aimed at achieving genuine sustainable development towards and post-Rio+20.

SD Grant
Regional Media Workshop for Environmental Journalists from Asia
In the run-up to Rio+20, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) plans a series of regional media workshops on land degradation, desertification and drought.
At this time, UNCCD is calling for applications from environmental journalists from Asia. Up to 15 successful journalists will be sponsored to participate in a 3-day workshop, which will include meetings with land experts and a field trip, showcasing both the challenges of land degradation and the best practices of combating it. Deadline for applications is 9 April.

SD e-Learning Opportunity
Business Ecosystems Training (BET)
In an increasingly resource-constrained world, corporations must measure, manage and mitigate their impact and dependence on the ecosystems where they operate and through their supply chains. To help build this capacity into company infrastructure, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched its Business Ecosystems Training (BET) program.
BET is designed to improve the understanding of managers and employees across business functions about their company’s direct and indirect impact and dependence on ecosystems, ecosystem services and biodiversity. Designed specifically for business, it incorporates WBCSD methodologies, materials and tools that have been developed over the course of 15 years, as well as material from other institutions.
›› Visit to learn more about BET and download the freely-available training material.
By IGES Regional Centre 2012