Participation and engagement: a discussion about power

Stephanie Buell

Type: Briefing Paper

Date: 24/02/2021

Full summary

Participation and engagement of community members in a programme is a positive step in the practice of international development. But, how programmes engage their constituents can reinforce transactionality – where the building of trust is simply a means to an end. Power is not recognised as central to all relationship-building. As long as the distribution of power between programme constituents and implementers remains uneven, it is difficult for programmes to have meaningful relationships with communities.


This briefing paper unpacks the issue of power in programme participation and engagement. Drawing on SLRC research, the paper explores:


  • How processes of engagement are designed and implemented
  • Who to include
  • What issues are addressed through constituent engagement