Participation received new attention as an explicit goal in development assistance in the late 1980s, due to increased emphasis on the sustainability of project benefits, institutional development and policy reform. Participation was initially promoted and applied mainly by NGOs and in small scale community development projects, then increasingly by multilateral organisations such as the FAO, ILO and UNRISD, as well as some bilateral agencies (OECD, 1997). Agenda 21 contained an innovative section on participation and responsibility which talked of the need for a social partnership to build environmental and economic security. Most of the innovations and accomplishments relating to participatory research and development have emerged from 'the third sector' (private organisations which are neither profit making nor affiliated to political parties) (Thompson, 1998). Whilst these organisations are themselves attempting to spread and scale up their successes, they themselves recognise that experience is very limited: as Chambers points out, "And, as usual with concepts which gain currency, rhetoric has run far, far ahead of understanding let alone practice." (Chambers, 1997). Mainstreaming of participation into operations - i.e. dialogue, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development activities- is still a major task ahead for most donors. In-country, public sector organisations are also taking an increasing interest in participatory approaches, for a variety of reasons connected with political and economic challenges in the public sector (Thompson, 1998). Consumer oriented companies will engage in a quasi consultation process through various business tools such as market research and focus groups. And, the involvement of business groups, trade associations and chambers of commerce can be a valuable way of disseminating a technology through a business community.
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