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An Analysis of Participatory Communication for Development: A Social Construction Perspective
Unformatted Document Text:  Participatory Communication for Development 16 participant “formulates interpretings that develop and change over time, contingent upon the prior and subsequent actions of the co-participant(s)” (Arundale, 1999, p. 126). From this perspective, it is apparent that co-interpretings occur over time, and as such, group interpretings, or collective definition, or social constructions will occur over even longer periods of time. Recognizing that this basic first step in the process of participation is one that must occur over time is important for funding agencies and task-focused facilitators. Without proper preparation, this process may appear to many as unfocused, or unproductive. The development worker or agency must then be prepared, before and throughout the process, to clearly explain and justify this approach to social change. Servaes and Arnst’s second and third steps include group analysis and group action with respect to the problem that has been collaboratively defined. However, this division of reflection and analysis is contrary to Freire’s (1970) distinction between both “verbalism (reflection alone)” and “activism (action alone)” and “dialogue (praxis: reflection and action)” (p. 172). A focus on dialogue as the foundation for the process of participation, particularly from a co-construction framework, requires that participants understand that action and reflection are intertwined. Neither can be successfully performed or understood without the other. Indeed, to first analyze and then act is to deny the importance of dialogue, and the solutions which will emerge from dialogic interactions. Rahnema (1992) warns that often in participatory projects, “rather than [participating as] a sensitive party to the process of mutual learning, [the development agent] becomes a militant ideologue, [or] a self-appointed authority on people’s needs and strategies to meet them” (p. 124). Approaching participation from a co-construction perspective will ensure that the focus on communication processes remains central to the understanding of the process of participation, and will reduce the potential for development workers or agencies to control or manipulate situations in the name of “participation.” A vigilant focus on dialogue will reduce the chance that facilitators of

Authors: Dare, Alexa.
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Participatory Communication for Development 16
participant “formulates interpretings that develop and change over time, contingent upon the prior and
subsequent actions of the co-participant(s)” (Arundale, 1999, p. 126). From this perspective, it is
apparent that co-interpretings occur over time, and as such, group interpretings, or collective definition,
or social constructions will occur over even longer periods of time. Recognizing that this basic first
step in the process of participation is one that must occur over time is important for funding agencies
and task-focused facilitators. Without proper preparation, this process may appear to many as
unfocused, or unproductive. The development worker or agency must then be prepared, before and
throughout the process, to clearly explain and justify this approach to social change.
Servaes and Arnst’s second and third steps include group analysis and group action with respect
to the problem that has been collaboratively defined. However, this division of reflection and analysis
is contrary to Freire’s (1970) distinction between both “verbalism (reflection alone)” and “activism
(action alone)” and “dialogue (praxis: reflection and action)” (p. 172). A focus on dialogue as the
foundation for the process of participation, particularly from a co-construction framework, requires that
participants understand that action and reflection are intertwined. Neither can be successfully
performed or understood without the other. Indeed, to first analyze and then act is to deny the
importance of dialogue, and the solutions which will emerge from dialogic interactions.
Rahnema (1992) warns that often in participatory projects, “rather than [participating as] a
sensitive party to the process of mutual learning, [the development agent] becomes a militant
ideologue, [or] a self-appointed authority on people’s needs and strategies to meet them” (p. 124).
Approaching participation from a co-construction perspective will ensure that the focus on
communication processes remains central to the understanding of the process of participation, and will
reduce the potential for development workers or agencies to control or manipulate situations in the
name of “participation.” A vigilant focus on dialogue will reduce the chance that facilitators of


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