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AbstractIncl. abstract, bibl.
This article critically reviews the role of participatory theory in managing development projects and programmes in poor countries. Participation has emerged in response to global demands for greater individual and social control over the activities of state and private agencies, and especially to the manifest failures of traditional 'top-down' management systems in LDCs. Claims made on behalf of these participatory methodologies are critically reviewed and a distinction is drawn between strong and weak versions of the theory. Empirical evidence is then considered to evaluate the effectiveness of these methodologies, using long-standing insights of social science theory to show that participation can succeed for specific kinds of projects and programmes in favourable circumstances, but is unsuitable for many others. It commonly fails in contexts where local conditions make co-operative and collective action very difficult, or where it is manipulated by implementing agencies to justify their own actions or poor performance.