Participatory methods for community consultation


Please identify literature outlining the details of specific participatory methods and tools for community consultation that may be suitable for use by a bilateral aid agency in country strategy-level consultations (rather than project level). Data will be collected on people’s lived experience of poverty, as well as their views of poverty reduction efforts (both to date and into the future). Please focus on sources that include details of the practicalities: what kind of expertise is required to run these processes, how participants are identified, what the steps involved are and what kind of data is collected.


This annotated bibliography identifies literature about specific participatory methods and tools for community consultation.

Key findings

Some donors have used particular participatory methodologies to inform country level strategy – such as Participatory Poverty Assessments by the World Bank and a donor staff immersion approach by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. However, in general, the literature does not make a distinction between methodologies used at the strategic country strategy level, project planning level, monitoring and evaluation, or the project level. It is clear that a number of methods are used for community consultation, and these may well be adapted (in scope, size or substance) to the different purposes of the consultation, but the methods are fundamentally the same.

This issue was particularly popular around 2000 – notably the year of the seminal 2000 World Bank study ‘Voices of the Poor’ – therefore much of the literature found during the course of this report ranges from between 8 to 15 years old. This paper focuses primarily on more recently published research.

There is a significant amount of literature evaluating individual participatory studies for community consultation. A comprehensive report published by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) by Leavy and Howard (2013) identifies 84 participatory research studies involving community consultation published over the last seven years. Most of these papers refer to some practical aspects of the methodologies employed; fewer give concrete details about the type of expertise needed to run the processes, the logistics, the identification of participants, or the type of data collected. This report identifies six methodological tools and approaches that were particularly emphasised in the literature, and highlights the practicalities detailed about these approaches. Specifically this paper reviews:

  • Reality check approach. This is an ‘approach’ rather than a formal methodology or a strict set of tools or methods. It differs from other approaches by focussing on the household, informal interactions and immersion, rather than group-based participatory methods. It is a hybrid approach that also draws on other information.
  • Donor staff immersion approaches. A predecessor to the reality check approach – this also focuses on the household level. A key principle is immersion of donor staff in local households.
  • Voices and portfolios of the poor. These were two seminal large scale data projects, with a global scope.
  • Participatory Poverty Assessments. This survey method was developed by the World Bank to develop country programs. It is an iterative, participatory process that seeks to understand poverty in local, social, institutional, and political contexts. It includes the perspectives of a range of stakeholders – including poor people, government and civil society groups – and involves them directly in planning follow-up action.
  • Community score cards and citizen report card surveys. Citizen Report Cards are participatory surveys that provide quantitative feedback on user perceptions of public services. Community Score Cards involve a hybrid of the techniques of social audit, community monitoring and citizen report cards – they are used for local level monitoring and performance evaluation.
  • Beneficiary Assessment. This involves systematic consultation with beneficiaries and other stakeholders to identify, design and get feedback on development activities. It includes a mix of: in-depth interviewing; focus groups; and direct observation.