PLA 57: Immersions: learning about poverty face-to-face

The theme for this special issue centres on experiences of learning about poverty face-to-face, often referred to as immersions. Immersions are opportunities for development professionals to spend a period of time living with and learning from a poor family. 

Article, 01 December 2007
Participatory Learning and Action
A journal for newcomers and experienced practitioners alike.

December 2007

Guest editors: Izzy Birch, Raffaella Catani with Robert Chambers

This issue of Participatory Learning and Action is a timely reflection of an emerging trend in development practice, drawing together the richness of immersion experience. It explores both the limitations and potentials of immersions by

  • bringing together diverse experiences, identifying their challenges and opportunities, and exploring their impacts;
  • encouraging readers to talk about immersions, share their experience, and recognise that there are many sorts of immersion;
  • inspiring people to have them, and help make immersions a regular practice for development professionals; and
  • enabling readers to reflect, get/stay in touch, and follow up. 

A critical mass of interest in this concept is gathering among major donors and civil society groups. Yet the impact of immersions is only now being tested. Different models are being developed: some are structured around a specific theme; others are more experiential and open-ended. But their common purpose is to bring immersion participants face-to-face with ordinary people, to test old assumptions, develop new perspectives, and strengthen their commitment to the challenge of poverty eradication.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Content can be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided the source is fully acknowledged. 

Follow the links below to download the whole issue or individual articles in pdf format.

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List of contributors

Overview: Immersions: something is happening 
Robert Chambers

Basrabai, Meeraiben, and the master of Mohadi 
Ravi Kanbur

The Evolution of Immersions

A portrait of the Exposure and Dialogue Programme Association 
Jörg Hilgers

Exposure and Dialogue Programmes at SEWA 
Reema Nanavaty with contributions from Raziaben, Savitaben, and Seetaben

The World Bank Group: investing in poverty immersions 
Frederick E. Nunes

The World Bank's Village Immersion Programme in South Asia 
Praful Patel, Qazi Azmat Isa, and Caroline Vagneron

Immersions in ActionAid 
Sonya Ruparel

Immersion Roles

Host familes 
Izzy Birch with contributions from Gauriben, Ramilaben, Shantaben and 
Kamlaben, Ama Gariba, Sam Mpanga, and Saurabh Kumar

Not your usual facilitator... 
Dee Jupp

Izzy Birch with contributions from Katy Oswald, Hawa Awuro Sam, 
and Sonya Ruparel

Reflections by participants on the interaction with their hosts 
Izzy Birch with contributions from Katy Oswald, Arjan de Haan, 
and Edward Bresnyan, and Ravi Kanbur

Personal Accounts

Extract from immersion report: Funsi, Ghana 
Koy Thomson

Reflections on an immersion: Funsi, Ghana 
Rosalind Eyben

Personal reflection on Funsi immersion: ActionAid Ghana 
Taaka Awori

Reflections on my immersion in India 
Gary Fields

The salt of the earth 
Praful Patel

Everyone at Sida should do an immersion! 
Olof Sandkull and Göran Schill

Legends of Choar Mumtaz: Saleiha Chachi smiles 
John Samuel

Institutional Accounts

Part 1: Staff selection, orientation and training 

Immersion as a form of apprenticeship at PRADAN 
The HRD Unit at PRADAN with a contribution from Vishal Jamkar

How SRIJAN uses immersions as part of its recruitment process 
Raj Kumar with Haridarkee

How SEWA uses Exposure and Dialogue Programmes (EDPs) for 
internal capacity building 

Poonam Shroff

The Global Journey: a quest for reality 
Bosse Kramsjo

Part 2: Programme development and accountability 

Using immersions for programme development at Plan Bangladesh 
Haider W Yaqub and Saiful Islam

An extract from 'Views of the Poor' 
Dee Jupp

Immersion: the soul of development 
Qazi Azmat Isa

Reality Check: accountability, learning, and practice with the people who matter 
Ashish Shah

Part 3: Influencing policy and institutional direction

Taking onboard immersions within Sida 
Esse Nilsson, Olof Sandkull, and Molly Sundberg

Reality Checks: first reflections 
Dee Jupp with Malin Arvidson, Enamul Huda, Syed Rukonuddin, Nasrin Jahan, 
Md Amir Hossain, Dil Afroze, Fatima Jahan Seema, Md Mominur Rahman, 
Sohel Ibn Ali, Rabiul Hasan Arif, Somita, David Lewis, and Hans Hedlund

The impact of Exposure and Dialogue Programmes (EDPs) on German parliamentary work and decisions 
Ruth Möller

With the strength of the powerless: using immersions for processes of structural change 
Karl Osner

Closing editorial: Immersions and face-to-face learning: reflections on practice 
Izzy Birch and Raffaella Catani

In Touch
Books, websites, events, training and other resources on the theme of immersions.