Communication mechanisms and community participation in the planning and implementation of community development projects: a case study of a girls' education project in Malawi
Pemba, Phillip Robert
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Top-down development approaches seldom yield sustainable development. Development programmes, projects and processes ought to embrace effective community participation to be inclusive and sustainable. This has resulted in an endless search for effective approaches to achieve active local people’s participation in development among researchers and practitioners, leading to emergence of many paradigms such as the people-centred development paradigm. Globally, the practice of people-centred development has not fully yielded the desired impact as many local communities still experience socio-economic deprivations and exclusions. One reason for this is lack of active participation of local people in their own development. While many factors affect people’s participation in development, poor communication has emerged as one cause of passive community participation in development. Thus, having effective communication mechanisms in community development projects helps to engender active community participation in the projects and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to realise inclusive development that leaves no one behind. Therefore, this study set out to explore communication pathways and community participation in community development projects, with a specific focus on why communication mechanisms across community participation structures in community development projects fail to galvanise genuine popular participation in the projects. The study analysed communication mechanisms in a project within a girls’ education programme, called the Joint Programme on Girls Education in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Africa and in the world. The analysis was done at three sites in three districts where the programme is implemented. Data for this research derived from a case study of the girls’ education project in Malawi. The study investigated the project in the context of the District Development Planning System (DDPS), which the Malawi government established in 1998 to promote active local participation in the planning and implementation of development projects across the country. Generally, the research noted that, while structures for community participation may be in place in projects, people’s use of the structures to actualise their participation largely depends on how communication pathways function across the structures. Communication mechanisms ought to embrace the elements, principles and practices of development communication to succeed at mobilising active community participation in community development projects.
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