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Participatory Workshops – review


Title: Participatory Workshops
Author: Robert Chambers
Published by: Earthscan
Date of Publication: July 2002
ISBN: 1-85383-862-4 hardback or 1-85383-863-2 paperback
Price: £30 Hardback, £8.95 Paperback
240 pages

Buy the hardback from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.

Buy the paperback from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.

“This is for those who try to help others learn and change…. There is something here for participatory teachers and trainers, for those who want their conference to be interactive, for those who want to enliven their courses.” - Publishers information


I’ve reviewed for Training Zone for several years now, and this is the first publication which I would suggest is a must buy for everyone.

It is full of ideas which are clearly explained but described so succinctly that there is from for 21 chapters of 21 ideas each - over 400 ideas of how to involve people better in your events.

For the price it’s amazingly good value as well, not like some of the overpriced pretentious rubbish at £300 a time.
I will now explain the contents at greater length, but there is really no need to read this part, just go out and buy it.

The author, Robert Chambers, has been training for over 20 years, and credits well over 100 colleagues with helping him in developing his ideas. His ideas have been drawn from his work with overseas agencies, and use the initials PRA, which now are taken to stand for Participatory Reflection and Action or PLA, Participatory Learning and Action.

His refreshing introduction explains how he was appointed early in his career to the newly formed Kenya Institute of Administration, and he describes it as brilliantly challenging, and being forced to improvise, and invent on the run.

5 lessons learnt were to:
Ration nervous energy
Cultivate stamina
Hand over the stick
Be optimally unprepared
Develop a repertoire

These are all explained in greater detail in the introduction which ends: "In the spirit of participatory sharing , anything in this collection can be copied or translated (except for commercial use) Do better than I have. Make up your own 21s. And please share them around."

The Sourcebook is divided into six sections: Brief Basics; Beginnings, Middles and End; Messing Up; Groups Seating and Size; Analysis and Learning; Behaviour and Awareness

The 21st and final section is 21 sources of ideas for trainers and facilitators, which lists 21 texts with descriptions and full references, as well as 3 websites full of further information about participatory learning.

The other specific chapters are:
Brief Basics- 21 Dos, Questions when preparing the Participatory Workshop, PRA Behaviour, Questions to ask oneself

Beginning, Middle and End - Ideas for getting started, energizers, evaluation and ending

Messing Up - Mistakes I make, Horrors in Workshops, Ways to not answer a question

Groups, Seating and Size - Forming Groups, Arrangements for seating, Participation and Large numbers

Analysis and Learning- 21 of the best, Ideas for analysis and feedback, ways to help each other learn, Tips on how to avoid lecturing

Behaviour and Awareness- Activities for attitude change, Tips for dealing with dominators, Surviving participatory workshops.

Now some small examples of contents:
Mistakes I make in workshops number 12: Hypocritical prattling, pontificating and preaching - talking top down about participation, lecturing about not lecturing, preaching about not preaching

Ideas for Large Numbers number 11 - Manage Movement: Insist that chairs are moved for groups and buzzes. Make space.. Use space to alternate activities. If there is empty space behind the chairs move backwards and forwards from the chairs to doing something in the space.

Ways to Help each other learn number 5 - Teaching/ Learning wheel. Extraordinarily effective for dull and not so dull material. Arrange tables in a circle, one table to 2 people. A different section of text or photograph/diagram is on each table. 2 participants discuss the subject. One person then stays at the table while the other moves on clockwise. Those who move are taught by those who stayed. In the next round those who stayed the first time move anticlockwise.

I have listed 3 out of the 440 ideas for participatory learning. If you didn’t like the examples I’ve provided, blame me not the text. I could scarcely put it down for the richness and sheer quantity of ideas.

Please buy this book and use the materials - it will make your life and the life of those with whom you are working more effective and more pleasurable.

Reviewed by Chris Green.


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