Module M04 - Community Groundwork and Processes

Unit M04U01: The Myth of Community and Participation


The overall aim for this Unit is to deepen participants’ understanding of community and community dynamics that could hinder or promote participation by different segments of the population during the participatory mapping processes. The Unit elaborates on the concepts of community, participation and power dynamics, which are important concepts for anyone who is involved in participatory mapping processes.

Given how we understand and frame “community”, the manner in which we prepare and engage the communities in the participatory mapping process is greatly influenced by the concept of participation. Our understanding consequently determines whom we end up including or excluding (either by choice or by default) in planning and implementing the entire process.

Having a well-grounded understanding of these foundational concepts enables us to appreciate that communities are full of power dynamics that require careful consideration if any genuine participatory process is to be realised.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

After the completion of the Unit the trainee will be able to:

  • discuss the complex relationships within communities;
  • differentiate among meanings and types of participation.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below:

  1. Defining Community and Participation (Exercise No.1) (1 ¼ hours)
  2. Polarities Exercise (Exercise No. 2) (1 hour)
  3. The Myth of Community and Participation (Handout4T & PPT No.1 ) (45 min)

Components of the Unit


Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in printed format):

Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in digital format)



3 hours

Additional trainer resources

  • Guijt, Irene and Meera Kaul Shah, The Myth of Community: Gender Issues in Participatory Development, Intermediate Technology Publications, 1998, Pages 1–23.
  • Smith, M. K. (2001) “Community” in The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education,
  • Cornwall, Andrea, Beneficiaries, Consumers, Citizens: Perspectives on Participation for Poverty Reduction. Sida Studies no.2, 2000, pp. 17–68.
  • Rambaldi, Giacomo, Robert Chambers, Mike McCall and Jefferson Fox, Practical ethics for PGIS practitioners, facilitators, technology intermediaries and researchers, Participatory Learning and Action 54-Mapping for Change: Practice, technologies and communication, April 2006, Pages 106–113; Community participation and empowerment: putting theory into practice. 30/03/2009
  • Pretty, J., Guijt, I., Thompson, J. and Scoones, I. (1995), Participatory Learning and Action, IIED Participatory Methodology Series, IIED, London.

Equipment needed

Visual/metaplan cards, pin boards and pins, flipcharts, flipchart stands, felt pens, computer, beamer

Additional downloads