Who Participates and Who Doesn’t? Lessons from a Community-based Development Project in Bangladesh

It is generally claimed that the second wave of participatory development, which received momentum in the 1990s, tends to be informed with broad-based social inclusion, social change and transformation. However, many have portrayed participatory development —the way it has been managed — as tyranny. This paper is a further attempt to explore some of these tyrannies of participation by focusing on a participatory development project in Bangladesh. This paper draws on a comparative case study on two project communities, and investigates: first, how socio-economic differentiation influences the extent of participation; and second, how this influence may be exaggerated by faulty project implementation guidelines. It is found that people’s ability to participate in community development project is greatly influenced by socio-economic status measured by, for example, household income, educational background and residency status. No additional effort from the project management side was made to include the most disadvantaged community people in the project activities or to make the weaker participants more active in group activities.
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