Exploring the nexus between participation and empowerment

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Theoretically, the idea of participation might appear to be replete with grand-sounding promises of empowerment for the poor and marginalised. But, in practice, participation may often take the form of enlisting people in various social and community development projects to secure the compliance of local people. In this paper, I offer a critical review of theoretical promises of participation and contrast this with a number of real world examples. I argue that participation can be used for validating external approach and incorporated in social as well as community development projects to make it more cost effective. In theory, giving voices to the poor is important but tokenistic inclusion can often found in practice for cost-effectiveness. However, giving voices and/or cost efficiency arguments are not coherent with the ideas of empowerment while practices of participation often fail to address the issues of power among various actors such as decision-makers, participation seekers and the participants. When participation is used as a prerequisite to secure fund or make the project cost-effective, empowerment of the poor people does not seem to be a genuine priority. Therefore, empowerment through participation may remain as gibberish.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Development Policy and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2020


  • participation
  • empowerment
  • poor
  • power
  • development
  • Bangladesh
  • developing countries


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