NEWS & INSIGHTSPublic Health

Participatory Learning as a Model for Project Delivery

‘Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.’ We could easily summarise this proverb in two words: Participatory Learning. It is a technique that can transform complex issues into simple and creative solutions. There are many ways to make learning a unique and participatory experience- with promising results for any age group. The aim of participatory learning is to provoke
the thinking process, catalyse consultation and promote involvement in the issue or intervention.

Participatory learning was first introduced at the community level in the rural areas of developing countries. Success, innovation and development in this field mean it is no longer restricted to developing countries; now it has been equally recognised in a range of environments and is applicable in both rural and urban settings. Participatory learning draws on people’s capabilities, experiences and knowledge for the purpose of ensuring
actions are sustainable. It can be used as a research tool for identifying priorities, mapping community resources and encouraging ownership in the decision making process.

ARCHIVE UK has experience in identifying opportunities for participatory learning by combining knowledge with skill. A good example of this approach was presented at TB awareness and photography training workshops. The objective of the training course was to educate community volunteers about TB by giving them the opportunity to practically observe the factors associated with TB spread. They were given a photography skills session, which helped them to observe the reality of their surroundings through their photos. As Alfred Mercier rightly said: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget”. Participants of the training produced messages and imagery centred on TB prevention in a
creative and unique way. Their photographs show us conditions that have a detrimental effect on thousands of peoples’ lives, and can be used as a strong lobbying force for advocacy and raising awareness.

Participatory learning techniques are used in a variety of settings. They are important in research; mapping community resources; identifying priorities; monitoring and evaluation, and much more. These techniques yield the best results in public health because it is based upon locally appropriate community based actions. Moreover, participatory learning is helpful in promoting dialogues, avoiding confrontations, reducing uncertainties and supporting sustainability. Liberty in thinking, courage in introducing innovations, and confidence in accepting responsibilities are the building blocks of exploring the new horizons that can lead us to the ultimate goal of all these efforts, making the world a better place to live for everyone.

Shandana Khisro and Heenali Patel are Project and Engagement Officers respectively with ARCHIVE UK