The role of NGOS in participatory governance
At the international level, NGOs are active, at meetings of intergovernmental coordination committees where issues related to trade, environment, and climate change are discussed. Their participation has helped bring radical changes in the negotiation mechanism with the non state players. Today, participation by NGOs is the key to good governance. Besides, their international presence and presence at both, the national and local levels, their participation is accepted by the government in various consultation meetings. Business, trade unions and NGOs, today, participate in decision making and this is a key to empowerment.
It is the NGOs which can articulate the demands of people at the grass roots level. Many industrial establishments have initiated community outreach and developmental projects with the help of NGOs at their local levels. This is intended to create congenial environment for businesses. Business organisations provide funding to the NGOs in order to deliver specific services to people. In recent years, governments of many countries are also taking the help of the NGOs for the implementation of various developmental projects at the grassroots level. At the same time, the local administration requires their help in implementing projects meant for the targeted social groups.
It is realized that the top-down approach is not going to succeed. The indirect and formal political decision making processes have not only failed to allocate adequate resources to the poor, but have excluded them from these processes. A bottom-up approach creates countervailing action by the people to influence the decision making processes. The role and contribution of people’s participation is acknowledged by the UN which calls for “increased popular participation in decision making as a fundamental goal of and policy instrument for development.”
Once the bottom-up approach is accepted, it requires NGOs to participate in a big way. These social action groups are able to articulate the needs of people as they work at the grass roots level. They have knowledge and expertise which makes meaningful participation possible and influence decisions that affect the livelihood of a target community. That is why it is recognized that programmes such as the participatory rural appraisal (PRA) is a means of empowerment of the rural poor.
The significant features of PRA are as following:
Empowerment: Knowledge is power. A local community that participates in the social process has acquired knowledge. The technical and social concepts related to their experience help them to have some expertise in limited areas. With knowledge, they have the capacity to contribute. The monopoly of professionals who have dominated the decision making process can be broken by the awareness of local communities that have knowledge.
Respect: The representatives of the local administration can learn to respect NGOs. The PRA process transforms administrators into learners and listeners. They learn to respect the intellectual and analytical capabilities of local people. The administrators should not have a patronizing attitude to local people. They may try to understand the folklore of local people to appreciate the local culture.
Localization: The administrators learn and understand the local mode of representations. This helps them to use local materials for creative use.
Enjoyment: The PRA process provides real enjoyment as working with local people is really fun.
Inclusiveness: once the stakeholders (government/ NGOs) are sensitive to the needs of the local people, it encourages the poor and dalits to participate in the process. This brings the participation of marginal and vulnerable groups into the PRA process.
The PRA process generates a lot of data and ideas which can be used in participatory planning. Participatory planning emphasizes the involvement of the whole community in the strategic and management process. It becomes a community level planning processes. PRA is supported by participatory learning and action, which emphasizes the links between the participatory process and action. This helps in building democratic leadership, consisting of various castes and ethnic groups. This process helps in the integration of lower castes and tribal people into PRA.
One of the leading exponents of PRA, laid down following principles of PRA
a) handing over the stick: facilitating investigation, analysis, presentation and learning by local people themselves by which let local people teach you
b) self critical awareness: the administrator critically examines his, or her, behaviour
c) personal responsibility: taking responsibility to ensure that what is needed is really done, rather than depending on rules and manuals
d) sharing: which involves a wide range of techniques now available, which includes everything from chatting across the fence, to making photocopies, and sending e-mail
Participatory Rural Appraisal uses several of the do-it-yourself methods given below
• local people are experts, and teachers and administrators are novices
• mapping and modeling
• time lines and trend and change analysis
• seasonal calendars
• daily analysis
• institutional diagramming
• matrix scoring and ranking
• shared presentations and analysis
• participatory planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring