Implication of participation
What is an implication of local people participating in activities for community development? From the empowerment point of view, it may represent a process in which individuals act upon the reality, which is the target of transformation, to continue to create the world through constant interaction with what influences on their lives. No matter how a well established theoretical explanation we can refer to, development practices acquire its meaning by the existence and involvement of those for whom the practices serve.
Participation matters. In general, people, however, are conservative against what they are not used to while development activities are usually of change-oriented. Due to this fact, it is often difficult to draw the engagement of people in development scenes, even if it had succeeded in bringing people in, they would hardly find a reason to change the way of their living unless they are convinced that a new practice is certainly a benefit. This is because activities designed and brought from outside are normally either irrelevant to or unwanted in an existing culture.
In this respect, it suggests that the principle of self-determination and self-help should be considered in introduction of development activities. Programs should be built up in reflection of interaction with those whose time and efforts will be used in operation. Our role, as practitioners, should be limited as far as creating and broadening opportunities for people to choose what is best for them. What is needed and will do good, therefore, can only be judged and realized by people who are under a direct influence of any initiative.
Self-determination and self-help together is a great force that sustains programs, and brings about transformation in the attitude and perspective of people in realization of how life can be better off. In participation of micro loan program, for example, women learn themselves how to manage their time and resources effectively. More importantly, they begin to feel confident in taking parts in the realm of community development.
You ought to ask yourself, therefore, how a program with various activities can possibly elevate the degree of the principle in its implementation. And this is a way you can see whether a program acknowledges validity and justification in it. The thing is that a successful story in one context can be a failure in another context. How can you be sure of if a program is based on the principle of self-determination and self-help?
In fact, it is a part of progress that demonstrates itself over implementation, not the pre-scribed like. Understanding this, what we can try to do is to make sure that development activities are incorporated to the lives and environment of local people in a way that they can easily manage the resources required for participation. For example, it must not bring rice farming practice to nomadic people just because rice pays high cash in the market. Programs structured by the participation of people is likely to be successful when it is based on what people are already capable of, and when it surely offers tangible benefits to their lives, and that those benefits must be recognized by no one, but local people.
When it comes to program management, sustainability is what should be kept in the process of monitoring and evaluating development practices. Factors of efficiency and effectiveness should set in place. The surest and fastest way to accommodate them is to realize the principle of self-determination and self-help. Motivation and dedication of participants that practitioners mostly want to see in any implementation starts to form as a setting for self-determination and self-help is secured.