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Participatory Development and the World Bank

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Participatory Development
and The World Bank

Robert D. Lamb, Bill Varettoni, and Chunli Shen

The World Bank has officially supported the notion of participatory development for over a decade, arguing that development projects are more effective when beneficiaries have a role in the way projects are chosen, planned, implemented, and evaluated. In practice, however, the Bank’s primary model of development continues to be based on expertise rather than participation. This is partly because the participatory model has not been definitively proven to be effective in all Bank projects. This paper criticizes the theory and practice of participatory development in light of the Bank’s experiences, and recommends that the Bank make a stronger effort, not just to promote or encourage participatory development, but to study what specific participatory mechanisms have been shown to work in what kinds of projects and under what circumstances, and then to identify the specific tasks that staff on those projects would need to accomplish to incorporate those mechanisms into their work.

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