Participatory Learning and Action

Keep up to date with the latest participation news from Participatory Learning and Action – a leading informal journal on participatory methods and approaches that strengthen rights, voice and governance and promote social justice. The series is published in English, with some issues translated into other languages, and some issues available in multimedia formats.

Announcement on the future of the PLA series

The Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) series is 25 years old this year. At this important milestone, IIED is taking stock of PLA to look at its legacy and its future direction. The series will be put on hold, pending this review, after issue no. 66. For more information read the future of the series.

Independent review of Participatory Learning and Action

cover image

In the summer of 2013, we contracted independent consultants Mary Myers and Mary Hobley to evaluate PLA and outline possible options for its future. We would like to thank them for producing a thoughtful, well-argued and stimulating report. 
Read the full report | Read the report annexes

PLA 65

Latest issues

PLA 66: Tools for supporting sustainable natural resource management and livelihoods

Edited by Holly Ashley, Nicole Kenton & Angela Milligan

We are pleased to announce the publication of PLA 66, which includes general articles submitted by readers on participatory approaches to sustainable natural resource management and livelihoods. It also includes articles on participation in an urban context in Chile, the use of participatory impact assessment tools to define, measure, monitor, review and analyse progress; and a discussion of ethical issues and standards for participatory work. Regular sections provide updates and reflections from the Resource Centres for Participatory Learning and Action (RCPLA) network, and list resources and events.

PLA 65: Biodiversity and culture: exploring community protocols, rights and consent

Guest edited by Krystyna Swiderska with Angela Milligan, Kanchi Kohli, Harry Jonas, Holly Shrumm, Wim Hiemstra, Maria Julia Oliva

After the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, India, IIED Senior Researcher, Krystyna Swiderska, explored how communities can get a share of the benefits from biodiversity and traditional knowledge they preserve.

Potato Park, Pisaq, Peru

Her blog looks at some of the difficulties facing people who live in biodiversity-rich areas, reflecting on why two different communities have developed community protocols. For more information please also visit our biocultural heritage website.

Read other IIED blogs and articles focusing on participatory approaches.

Read PLA 65: Biodiversity and culture: exploring community protocols, rights and consent

Also available in Spanish: Biodiversidad y cultura: exploración de protocolos comunitarios, derechos y consentimiento Biodiversity and culture: exploring community protocols, rights and consent (PLA 65)

Many rural communities – including some 370 million indigenous peoples – are directly dependent on biodiversity and related traditional knowledge for their livelihoods, food security, healthcare and well-being. But with the loss of biodiversity, valuable resources such as climate-resilient crops, medicinal plants and wild foods are being lost. Cultural diversity is being eroded at an unprecedented rate and with it, ancestral knowledge of how to use and conserve biodiversity.

This special issue of Participatory Learning and Action explores two important participatory tools that indigenous peoples and local communities can use to help defend their customary rights to biocultural heritage: i) Community protocols – or charters of rules and responsibilities – in which communities set out their customary rights to natural resources and land, as recognised in customary, national and international laws; and ii) Free, prior informed consent (FPIC) processes, in which communities decide whether or not to allow projects affecting their land or resources to go ahead, and on what terms.

Experiences of communities in Asia, Latin America and Africa in developing and using these tools in a range of contexts are reviewed, including: developing mechanisms for access and benefit-sharing (ABS) for genetic resources and traditional knowledge; confronting threats from mining and protected areas; and improving forestry partnerships. 

Government experiences of establishing institutional processes for FPIC and benefit-sharing are also included. The issue identifies practical lessons and guidance based on these experiences and aims to strengthen the capacity of a range of actors to support these rights-based tools effectively in practice.

This issue of PLA provides guidance for those implementing the Nagoya Protocol in particular, as well as for other natural resource and development practitioners, raising awareness of the importance of community designed and controlled participatory processes.

Recent issues

PLA 64: Young citizens: youth and participatory governance in Africa

A young woman participating in the discussion during the campus tour at University of Abuja. Credit: EVA

All over the world we are seeing exciting experiments in participatory governance. But are they working for the young? What spaces are most promising for the participation of children and young people in governance? Across Africa youth (particularly boys and young men) are often seen as a ‘lost generation’: frustrated, excluded and marginalised from decision-making processes. But contributors to this special issue demonstrate how this is changing.

This issue of PLA highlights how young Africans are driving change in creative and unexpected ways, challenging the norms and structures that exclude them by engaging with the state and demanding accountability. This issue will enable other participatory practitioners – young and old – to learn from their experiences.

Also available in French: Jeunes citoyens : les jeunes et la gouvernance participative en Afrique

For details of how to order the multimedia DVD Rom of PLA 64 in English and French click here.

See also:

African youth in participatory politics – article in IIED’s 2010/11 annual report

PLA 63: How wide are the ripples? From local participation to international organisational learning

When a pebble is thrown in the water it creates ripples. But just as ripples fade, the strong local impact of good quality participatory processes also weakens as it gets further away from the original context. But what about the insights and analysis, evidence and stories that were generated and documented? How can they inform good development policy and planning?

This issue shares reflections and experiences of bringing grassroots knowledge from participatory processes to bear at international level.

PLA 62: Wagging the dragon's tail: emerging practices in participatory poverty reduction in China

China is experiencing significant shifts in its traditional government-led development. It is the citizens who are ‘wagging the dragon’s tail’ – and in positive and empowering ways. Participatory approaches and changing relationships between the state and citizens are at the heart of these transformations.

This issue looks at the interface between government and communities – and how participation is becoming key to reducing poverty, improving livelihoods, sustaining the environment, maintaining China’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity and ensuring good governance.

Read all our downloadable back issues