Meaningful involvement

* partly based of paper of Katrin Schiffer peer involvement (in press)

In general, we prefer to focus on genuine involvement and maximum implementation of ‘meaningful’, rather than to lose focus by discussing the minutiae of the technical terminology surrounding the level of peer involvement.  This section will focus on the concept of ‘meaningful’.

As mentioned earlier, the methods applied to engage peers vary considerably. Some forms of peer work focus on straightforward education and apply very similar methods to formal tutoring, such as whole-class teaching in group discussion in youth centres.  Other methods include very informal tutoring in unstructured settings, one-to-one discussions and counselling.  Other methods have more ambitious aspirations and focus on empowerment and emancipation processes.

Which method is adopted depends to some extent on the intended outcomes of the project, whether it be passing on information, behaviour change, skills development or community development.  Some projects include a variety of methods, whilst others keep to only one.

Pretty (1995) identify 7 different types of participation:

  1. Passive participation. Professionals have complete control of the programme, the planning, the organisation of activities.  The target group is only informed about what is going to happen.  Example:  drug users in methadone treatment.
  2. Participative information-giving, in which the target group is participating by answering questions from researchers, services or policymakers, without having influence on decision-making.  Example:  research settings.
  3. Participation by consultation, where the target group can express its views and needs.  Their feedback can influence the process and the decision-making, but there is no obligation by the consultants to incorporate it.  Example:  policy and civil society consultation processes.
  4. Participation for material incentive includes that the target group participates by providing specific resources such as labour in exchange for money or other material incentives.  They can influence the work setting, but not the process and the strategies being used there.  Examples:  social reintegration projects for drug users.
  5. Functional participation means that the target group participates by contributing to predetermined objectives (usually not from the very beginning of the project).  Control and responsibility are still in the hands of the professionals.  Example:  peer workers in HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives.
  6. Interactive participation is the cooperation between the target group and the professionals, working in partnership using interdisciplinary methodologies.  Knowledge is shared to gain understanding and develop common actions.  Example:  Action Research.
  7. The highest level of participation is self-mobilisation. Professionals remain in the background or do not play any role at all.  The target group makes its own choices and decisions and has complete control of the planning and implementation of activities.  Example: drug user organisations.