A list of participatory learning techniques that
group promoters should use during group formation and development of income-generating enterprises is presented here.
The list is intended as a guide only. Be creative when using
methods. Try to use drawings rather than words as much as
possible. Use pictures, drawings, a flannel board, puppets and
so on. Write and draw on poster-size sheets of paper. Special
attention should to be paid to women's roles and work.
- Activity profile
Ask different people about their daily activities. Where, when
and how much money do they spend? Interview and observe or
ask them to write notes.
- Approach members constructively
Reward members either verbally or through privilege for taking
initiative and for actions of any kind. Everyone needs to know
their contributions are appreciated. Even if their comments are
not practical, a reply can begin with "That's a good point but
what about... ", or "That's an interesting point, what do others
- Assignments (theoretical and practical)
Ask participants to practise new roles and new skills -- e.g. ask
a different person to act as a chairperson or fill in record book.
Set assignments to find out the current market prices for
something. As an exercise, work out the likely demand for a
product -- e.g. chickens -- in a village for one year.
Ask members to think of any ideas that come to mind. List all the
ideas without evaluation or judgment. The quantity, not the
quality, is what matters. Ideas can be discussed later for
practicality. Sometimes unlikely or seemingly ridiculous ideas
lead to a more practical idea which would otherwise not have
- Case studies
Discuss an imaginary or real situation from the village (e.g. a
successful group of marketing women) to encourage discussion
on marketing strategies. Use the case study to ask questions
about an activity the group is working on.
- Community surveys
Survey individuals in the community for their knowledge or
opinions. Ask a number of people who represent the audience
you are thinking about. For example, if you are trying to find out
the extent of demand for wooden chairs in the village, ask a
number of people -- men, women, village elders, school teachers, etc. If you want to know which people are poor, ask several
people about their jobs, houses and standard of living and if
they think they are above or below average for the village.
- Consultation with specialists
Carry out an interview with a specialist or knowledgeable
person on an issue for which you need more information -- e.g.
for chicken-raising, contact your local extension agent. For a
health issue, contact your local health centre.
- Critical Incident
Use problem situations to analyse advantages and disadvantages and possible solutions to a given situation. Pictures or
drawings will help. For example: "A group has saved up a lot of
money -- enough to build a chicken house and start up a chicken
raising activity. Just before they go to buy the materials, the
treasurer tells them all the money has been burnt. What should
they do?" Hold a discussion on the issue.
- Describing visual images
Choose a photograph or drawing with a clear, relevant message.
Before displaying the image, ask three volunteers to leave the
room. Discuss with the other participants how to describe the
picture. Ask person A to return and listen to a description of the
image (without seeing it). Let person A tell B and B tell C. Ask
C to draw the picture. Discuss. Use this to highlight how
messages become distorted when passed from one person to
- Field visits and excursions
These can be combined with observation and interviewing.
Arrange a visit to a place of relevance to the group -- e.g. if they
want to start a carpentry activity, arrange a trip to a carpentry
business in another village (but far enough away so they would
not compete if the activity becomes successful). A visit to
another group successfully running an activity your group
would like to try can be very useful in building members'
- Folk songs
Ask people to sing local traditional songs and explain them. You
will learn a lot about values, practices and local terminology.
- Good, bad or in-between
Show participants pictures, each with a scene that could be
interpreted as good, bad or in-between, depending on the point
of view. Ask participants to sort the scenes into the three
categories, and discuss the different alternatives.
- How to make a meal
Use a daily activity like cooking to illustrate the importance of
sequencing and planning. Write out the sequence of activities
that have to be done to cook a meal. Show how they have to be
done in a certain order and need to be planned in advance.
- Information collection
Ask members to collect information on relevant subjects at the
local library, offices, service organizations, etc. This is useful for
finding out what is needed or the likely results of an idea before
trying it out in practice.
Ask questions of key informants individually or as a group, near
a meeting point such as a tea shop or a village pump. Use semi-
structured interviews (i.e. with some guideline questions prepared in advance) or open interviews. Interviewing each other
is also a good way to practice interviewing skills.
- Local histories
Ask villagers for a detailed account of the past and how things
- Making puzzles
Cut large sheets of paper into two or more puzzle pieces, then
mark the "right" side. Give each participant a piece and ask
them to combine the pieces with or without talking. Watch
what happens and use the results to discuss communication
and group cooperation.
- Making something together
Provide materials and objects and ask participants to make
something. Watch and use the results to discuss communication and cooperation.
- Memory game
Show 20 objects found locally. Ask the participants to remem-
ber them. Put them in a bag one by one. Then ask one volunteer
to name them and write them down on a list. Ask the other
participants as a group to write them down as well. Compare
the lists and discuss the advantages of cooperation.
- Participation game
Give five sticks to each participant. Start a discussion. Every-
body who speaks has to give away one of her/his sticks. No one
may speak without sticks. Discuss subjects such as dominance,
shyness and importance of participation.
- Participatory discussion
Used in combination with other methods. Gather the members
in small or large groups and discuss a topic of interest. Provoke
reactions by using open questions: "What do you see here?
Why do you think it happens? When this happens in your
situation, what problem does it cause? What can we do about
it?" Ask questions that need definite answers: "When was the
last time ... and what did you do then? What did you do
yesterday? How many ...? What happens in your family ...?"
- Pictures, posters or story cards
Present a story about a relevant topic using pictures, and
discuss the content and results. Use together with case studies
or critical incidents.
- Practical demonstration
Show exactly how something should be done -- e.g. filling in a
record book. Then ask the members concerned to do the same
thing. If you do not have the skill in question, ask an expert to
demonstrate -- e.g. for fertilizer application, you could ask an
- Preference ranking
Ask villagers to rank items according to the villagers' criteria
(e.g. for six seed varieties -- which is best to worst for harvesting,
fodder, food, storage, etc.).
- Presentation by a resource person
Ask a specialist to give a presentation in a workshop -- for
instance a market women or trader explaining about purchase
- Presentation of a progress report
Ask a participant to give a personal report about the group's
progress. Discuss the presentation among the group. If one
member is very critical, you can always ask them to do better!
- Presentation of experiences
Ask one participant to describe personal experiences related to
daily life or work -- e.g. a woman telling what she does from
morning until evening, or a man telling how he runs his market
Make a table with four columns. List main problems of partici-
pants in the first column, possible solutions in the second
column, what prevents them from solving the problem in the
third column, and what will help them solve the problem in the
fourth column. Discuss.
- Puppet shows
Use puppets to express opposing ideas (e.g. chatting and
quarrelling about "women's work"). Puppets are particularly
good for discussing controversial issues as they are not "real"
and so can be allowed to say what they like without causing
- Skits or plays
Ask participants to do a short skit or role-play on the subject
being discussed (e.g. participants act out the election of a
committee or selling their goods at market). This can also do a
mime (a play without words).
- Socio-economic dimensions
A wealth/well-being ranking or sorting exercise -- make cards or
slips of paper, each with one household name written on it. Ask
villagers or participants to sort the cards into piles according to
"wealth". You can combine this method with social mapping.
- Song composing
Ask members to make up and sing a song about something the
participants have learnt (e.g. how to increase group cooperation).
- Spoken messages (also known as "Chinese whispers")
Think of a message that suits the situation (e.g. "tomorrow we
will start interviewing market women about how they sell their
chickens"). Give the message to one member and tell him/her
to pass the message around from one person to another by
whispering. Ask the last person to repeat what she/he has
heard. Discuss how and why the message changed, how misunderstanding can be avoided, and what can be learnt from this
- Systematic walk
Take a systematic walk through the village and surroundings,
observing the village structure and processes. Ask how and
why people do what they do. Listen more than talk.
- Testing and experimenting
Carry out practical trials or experiments (e.g. test different seed
varieties to see which work best).
- Time line
Ask the members to draw a line and mark on it major events in
the community, with the approximate dates. Discuss changes
that have occurred.
- Two-circle exercise
Draw two circles -- one circle represents the community, the
other the group in the community. List the problems in the
community and list the problems that affect the group especially in the group circle. Discuss how the problems are connected, possible solutions to the problems and how solving
group problems will affect the community.
- Venn diagrams
Ask people to draw a circle to represent themselves and other
circles to represent groups and institutions with which they
have relations. The distance to their circle indicates the strength
of the relation, the size of the circle their importance to the
people. Circles can overlap.
- FAO (1994), The group promoter's resource book. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, pp. 101-107.