Chapter 23: Re-imagining democratic research processes in community-based development: a case for photovoice
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Community-based development (CBD) models have a primary objective of mobilizing the community via locally initiated development activities (Mansuri and Rao, 2003). This is achieved through focused efforts on community capacity-building by involving the beneficiaries in most, if not all, aspects of program design, implementation and evaluation activities. This encourages the beneficiaries to assume more responsibility for their community than was permitted in top-down development models, allowing the resulting initiatives to be direct reflections of the community’s self-identified needs and desires. The problem, however, is that though many international development practitioners have shifted to such participatory models for program delivery, the research methods that they use within these practices continue to reflect a top-down approach. Thus, a participatory research model is more appropriate to use within CBD to facilitate better alignment between the program delivery and research models. Participatory research, developed in response to critiques of the power dynamics inherent in traditional research methods, is a relatively new model within the social sciences, though it is now increasing in popularity and being used in a variety of ways (Moletsane et al., 2007). In these research models the participants assume greater decision-making agency than in traditional researcher-directed approaches, and the research process itself is considered to be beneficial to the participants.

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