Voices from the Margins

ISBN 978-185339-624-3

Roger Lewins, Stuart Coupe & Francis Murray



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Describes the work of Practical Action in introducing consensus-based planning approaches in villages that are poor even by Bangladesh standards: 90 per cent of people live under the poverty line and over 60 per cent are illiterate. A highly useful in countries that reject the role of NGOs in governance or human rights, and in planning for disasters and humanitarian Interventions. The authors have written a book for practitioners. They describe in clear language the specific features of this dynamic process of participatory planning and negotiation for consensus building in natural resource management. It is refreshing to read an account that seeks to promote a flexible process rather than a step-by-step methodology toolkit approach to consensus building. The approach described in this book relies on light but skilful facilitation, with no fixed timetable for reaching consensus. As the authors argue, PAPD needs to work alongside what NGOs and government agencies are already doing, whilst promoting the use of informal institutions and key social actors to work things out. The approach encourages community groups to make their own connections and form new relationships with enabling institutions and service providers in pursuit of village plans. Planning here is a means to develop social and political linkages for change. 


The authors and their organization – Practical Action – have chosen to focus on a microcosm, drawing lessons from participatory planning and consensus building in Bangladesh. As such, they are encouraging valuable learning within their own organization and beyond, inviting us to critically reflect and learn with them.
Dr Michel Pimbert, Director, Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Programme,  
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), UK

About the authors

Stuart Coupe is International Projects Manager in the Practical Action programme on reducing vulnerability, with a background in African Studies.

Roger Lewins, formerly a Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, is an independent consultant in the field of development research. He currently specializes in governance issues in the fisheries sector.

Table of contents


1 Conflict resolution and consensus building for natural resource management and development 
The principles of consensus 
The origins of conflict resolution and consensus building methods 
Characteristics of the approaches and recent developments 
Consensus building and NRM in the development context 
Transplanting approaches to consensus building 
Participatory Action Plan Development (PAPD) 
Synthesis – a typology of consensus building in NRM 
2 Consensus building in the Bangladesh charlands 
The informal institutional environment of the poor 
Developing char-modified PAPD 
Navigating the local social and institutional landscape –experience from the char villages 
3 The char-modified PAPD approach 
The stages of the char-modified approach 
Characteristics of the char-modified PAPD 
The key modifications summarized 
4 Discussion 
One step at a time
The potential role of government structures 
Farming futures 
Voices from the margins 
Understanding the institutional environment for participatory planning 
Current and potential uses of PAPD



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