Active participation of marginalized people in community development and the role of World Vision Myanmar : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in International Development at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The aim of this thesis is to explore the participation of the marginalized people in community development, and specifically how World Vision Myanmar facilitates that participation. The Area Development Programme implemented by World Vision in Thabaung Township was selected as a case study. Employing theoretical continuums of participation in conjunction with qualitative research methods, the nature and level of participation of marginalized people and the factors influencing their participation, as well as the role of World Vision Myanmar in promoting their active participation, were investigated.
Before the 1990s, the dominant modes of top-down and externally-induced development failed to provide the hoped-for results in reducing poverty. As a result, a more people-oriented approach to development was encouraged and the participation of the previously ignored beneficiaries of development initiatives is now seen as vital in achieving and sustaining development outcomes. However, community participation in development initiatives does not mean that all segments of a community have an equal role in development programmes and share benefits equally.
This study found that nearly all community members participate in community development projects initiated by World Vision Myanmar but that the form of their participation varies. Three socioeconomic categories (the rich, the middle-class and the poor) were present in each research village, and the results showed that the poor were marginalized from active participation in important aspects of community development, especially in leadership and decision-making. The poor were characterized by a cluster of disadvantages. This study noted that the decision-making power remained mostly in the hands of the powerful people in the community. However, leadership styles differed between research villages, demonstrating that the poor can contribute to decision-making processes when the leadership style in the communities is inclusive of the marginalized. In contrast, when the leadership style is authoritative and individualized, the poor remain marginalized from development processes.
World Vision Myanmar has policy documents and guidelines that encourage the participation of every segment of the community, especially the poor. However, there is still room for the organization to make these guidelines more accessible for Community Based
Organizations (CBOs) so that they can apply them more effectively in their communities,